A day in the life of a veterinary physiotherapist

As the well-known saying goes: choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work in your life. This is very true for animal lovers who have made a career out of working with animals. The good news is that there is a great variety of career opportunities! In the next few issues, we will be telling you more about these exciting options. In this issue, we chatted to Marinette Teeling, vice-principal at Equine-Librium College and veterinary physiotherapist.

What do I study to become an animal physiotherapist?

The South African Veterinary Council (SAVC) is in the final stages of promulgating veterinary physiotherapy as a para-veterinary profession. This means that veterinary physiotherapy will be a regulated profession under the SAVC and all practitioners must register with the SAVC to be able to work. This ensures proper standardised treatment for our patients. The SAVC will then have specific courses and degrees that will be the route into this profession.

Currently people have followed different routes. Equine-Librium College offers a full-time, four-year course into this field. Other people studied human physiotherapy with some extra courses, or veterinary science or veterinary nursing with some additional courses. This is also the reason for registering the profession: to ensure everyone is educated to a specific level.

What does a typical day in your job look like? What are the tasks that keep you busy?

There are quite a few different work environments. A typical day working with horses entails you driving to one or a few yards, where you evaluate and treat horses. Some veterinary physiotherapists work mainly with canines and have their own facilities that offer different therapy interventions. There are also similar equine therapy clinics. Our interventions include manual therapy, electrotherapy, hydrotherapy and rehabilitation exercises. Manual therapy includes different types of massage, mobilisations and taping techniques. Rehabilitation exercises can include many types of equipment to achieve certain goals, like peanut balls, treadmills, walkers, cavaletti poles, wobble boards and the like.

What are your average working hours?

This can vary tremendously – some days 7am to 7pm, while other days can be a bit quieter.

What kind of qualities do you think a person needs to be a great animal physiotherapist?

I think a person needs to have a genuine desire to give their patients the best quality of life. This will be different between, for example, an athlete and a geriatric dog. You need to be able to understand people well, as we need to have a good relationship with owners. Necessary qualities include being thorough and enjoying problem-solving. This is also a very physical job, so you need to be an active, fit and strong person. Laziness won’t get you far.

What is the best part of your job?

Seeing the results of your work. Enjoying an owner’s happiness when their animal is better, and most of all seeing improvement in our patients and seeing them perform optimally.

What is the worst/most challenging part of your job?

Some pathologies are degenerative, and our goal of therapy is to try to slow down an inevitable process of going backwards. It’s challenging to not be able to ‘fix’ every patient.

Administration, paperwork, finances and marketing are also not my most favourite part of the job!

What is veterinary physiotherapy?

Physiotherapy is a well-established, science-based profession with an excellent reputation for evidence-based practice. Although the clinical signs present in animals with musculoskeletal problems may improve over time, a well-designed physiotherapy rehabilitation programme can accelerate the recovery, prevent permanent disability and help to prevent future re-injury.

The goals of animal physiotherapy are to:

  • restore, maintain and promote optimal function.
  • optimise fitness and performance.
  • improve quality of life.
  • relieve, recover, prevent and educate.

Source: equine-librium.co.za