Canine Rehabilitation Therapist

A dog receives swimming therapy at the Oedo Resort and Spa May 4, 2004 in Tokyo, Japan.
Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Canine rehabilitation therapists are animal health professionals that work to improve a dog’s range of movement and provide pain management.

Duties

Canine rehabilitation therapists are responsible for creating and implementing therapy plans to increase an animal’s mobility and minimize any pain they may be experiencing as a result of an injury or a chronic condition. The therapist works through the treatment plan with the dog, making adjustments as necessary to ensure that progress is being made in each session.

 

Therapists may be assisted by veterinary technicians that have achieved a related certification, such as the Certified Canine Rehabilitation Assistant (CCRA) designation, or assistants that have extensive practical experience in therapy work.

Therapists may make use of a variety of treatment options such as applying heat or cold to an affected area, electrode stimulation, massage, hydrotherapy (swimming), treadmill work, bandaging, splinting, drug therapy, or exercise programs. They must also keep careful records to track the dog’s progress and document the specific therapies that are utilized.

As is the case with most careers requiring direct contact with animals, canine rehabilitation therapists must be sure to take proper safety measures to minimize the chance of injury from a bite or scratch. This is particularly important when working with dogs that could be in pain or under stress from being in unfamiliar surroundings.

Career Options

Most canine rehabilitation therapists are already licensed professionals with careers in veterinary medicine or human physical therapy. Canine therapy may be either a full- or part-time pursuit for these individuals.

Some vets and physical therapists may choose to become involved in therapy for other species in addition to dogs.

Equine rehabilitation therapy is one popular option.

Education & Training

There are several specialty training programs in canine rehabilitation that are available to both animal and human health professionals. Coursework tends to focus on topics in anatomy and physiology, exercise programs, aquatic therapy, therapeutic interventions, rehabilitation program design, pain management, and other related areas. Two well-known certifications are the CCRT and the CCRP.

The Certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapist (CCRT) program is offered to licensed veterinarians and physical therapists. Candidates for the CCRT designation must complete 3 core courses and a 40-hour internship at an approved facility. The program is offered in locations across the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Since its inception in 2003, over 400 individuals have achieved certification.​

The University of Tennessee offers its own Certificate in Canine Rehabilitation Program (CCRP​). This certificate program is open to veterinarians, veterinary technicians, physical therapists, and physical therapist assistants. The university is widely recognized as one of the largest rehabilitation facilities in the United States and boasts state of the art equipment.

The program was established in 1999 and has hundreds of graduates practicing worldwide.

Salary

Most canine rehabilitation therapists are also veterinarians or human physical therapists, so it is helpful to look to salary information for those professions when discussing compensation in this field.

The median wage for veterinarians was $84,460 per year according to a 2012 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Earnings in the 2012 BLS salary survey ranged from less than $51,530 for the lowest 10 percent of all veterinarians to more than $144,100 for the top 10 percent of all veterinarians. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reports that the median salary for companion animal exclusive veterinarians was $97,000 in 2009. 

The median wage for physical therapists was $79,860 per year in the 2012 salary survey conducted by the BLS.

Earnings ranged from $55,620 for the lowest 10 percent of all physical therapists to more than $112,020 for the top 10 percent of all physical therapists. This salary range is comparable to that which is earned by veterinary professionals.

Career Outlook

In recent years, pet owners have demonstrated an increasing willingness to spend money on pet health care services, a trend that has been well documented by the American Pet Product Association (APPA). Due to this growing interest in canine well-being, there should be a greater demand for the services that are provided by canine rehabilitation therapists.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics employment surveys also indicate that the demand for veterinarians and physical therapists will be strong for the foreseeable future, with the veterinary profession growing by 12 percent and the physical therapy profession by 36 percent.