With the launch of a new Position Statement – Animal Physiotherapy – the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) wants all animals, whether they are high performance competitors, working animals or much loved family pets, to be treated by highly qualified experts.

National Chair of the APA Animal Group, Lynne Harrison said the APA is calling on veterinary surgeons to only refer their clients to qualified allied health professionals, such as animal physiotherapists, to ensure the most appropriate and skilled treatment for all animals.

“Physiotherapy is not only for people, it also offers essential rehabilitation and treatment for animals to improve their quality of life and, to assist in prevention and recovery from injuries.”

“Animal physiotherapists work closely with veterinary surgeons predominantly treating horses, dogs and cats, both pets and working or performance animals such as racehorses, show jumpers and greyhounds.”

“Physiotherapists working with animals offer the same skills and multidisciplinary care as in human health care, helping to reduce pain, improve function and mobility and prevent recurrence of injury. The results are better outcomes for animals following surgery and neurological events, and an improved quality of life for elderly animals and those undergoing palliative treatment.” 

Ms Harrison said that all Ahpra-registered physiotherapists have completed a four year Bachelor of Science degree in Physiotherapy, but those working in animal physiotherapy have undertaken additional postgraduate training.

“Animal physiotherapists either hold a Masters or postgraduate diplomas in animal or veterinary physiotherapy or have completed the APA’s Career Pathway in Animal Physiotherapy. The APA is concerned that some animal practitioners, claiming to be physiotherapists, may not hold such qualifications or indeed have any formal, recognised training.

“Consumers have a right to know that practitioners calling themselves physiotherapists are just that, and should be confident that their animals are receiving physiotherapy from a qualified professional who is providing the best care possible.” 

Within the position statement, the APA is also calling on pet insurers to include animal physiotherapy cover in their policies, and provide policies that cover the range of complaints that animal physiotherapists regularly treat.

“Pet insurers should provide policies that cover common injuries and illnesses that animal physiotherapists normally treat, such as cruciate ligament repair, hip dysplasia and intervertebral disc disease.”

“We would urge all animal owners to carefully scrutinise all pet insurance policies, to ensure they stipulate their pet or working animal will receive care from highly qualified, Ahpra-regulated physiotherapists,” she said.

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Lynne Harrison is available for comment.