How to Become Qualified in Animal Rehabilitation

While Matt and I only opened the Animal Rehab Klinik halfway through this year, we’ve been innundated with people contacting us through social media, friends and even in person us wanting to know how to do what we do.
I really get excited when someone asks me this question because there is such a need for more practitioners working in this field, and the more of us there are the more animals can get access to the same type of treatment options that humans do.

What Is This Profession Called?

Strictly speaking, for those who have the same qualifications as us, it is known as Animal Biomechanical Medicine (ABM). Other terms that may be thrown around are ‘animal/canine/equine rehabilitation’ or ‘animal chiropractic/osteopathy/physiotherapy. For us who are qualified ABM practitioners, our professional body is known as Animal Biomechanical Professionals of Australia (ABPA).
This encompasses registered veterinarians, chiropractors and osteopaths who have all completed a 2 year Post-Graduate Diploma of Animal Biomechanical Medicine (ABM), which is taught at Box Hill Tafe in Melbourne, Australia. To do this course you need to have been practicing in your field of expertise for a minimum of two years prior to enrolling, then there’s an interview process to make sure that you have the ‘open mindedness’ to work along side those from other professions who may have a completely different way of thinking. To have all these professions united is groundbreaking, and requires great collaboration for the course and industry to be a success. Then you of course have to finish the 2 year ABM course!
As you can see, it’s a long journey from start to finish – minimum of 8 years if you choose the shortest path possible, and quite a commitment if you’re starting from scratch.
The good news is that for practicing veterinarians, chiropractors or osteopaths – you’re already most of the way there. Once you’ve done your two years of clinical practice you can enrol in the ABM course. There are also overseas course such as The European Board of Veterinary Specialisation or The Veterinary European Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Association

What If I’m Not A Vet, Osteo or Chiro?

The most common place this question comes from are from Physios. If you’re a physiotherapist in Australia wanting to practice in animal rehabilitation then the news isn’t as good. Currently there is no course in Australia currently running for physiotherapists, and as you may have noticed the ABM course isn’t open to Physios. We hope that this situation will change in the future, as it is unfortunate. There however some overseas options, such as the Veterinary Physiotherapy Post Graduate Diploma at the University of Liverpool.
Now, if you’re thinking that 8+ years is too long for you to be studying, then there are some other ideas which we can suggest which could get you qualified enough to get a start in the animal rehabilitation industry.
  1. Study to be a vet nurse, then do the Canine Rehabilitation Institute (CRI) course which is only open to vets & their vet nurses.
  2. Apply for jobs at a clinic that does animal rehabilitation where you can learn on the job. Note – you won’t become qualified this way, but you’ll certainly get some experience.
  3. If you’re a physiotherapist, there have been some whispers about a short course starting up in Australia. I don’t know the details, but sounds like it will be an introductory course. You’ll most likely still have to travel overseas to become fully qualified.
  4. There are some short courses out there such as canine/equine massage, animal hydrotherapy etc. We wouldn’t recommend this as a way of becoming ‘qualified’, but can certainly introduce you to the industry and be used to up-skill yourself if you were working in an animal rehabilitation practice with fully trained professionals.

What Are The Job Opportunities Like?

Difficult question to answer. There are loads of work out there, if you can find it. The problem is that with such a new & unknown industry, not many people know that this is an option. If you have the motivation to let the world know how you can help their pets/animals then you could do really well.
Some ideas of areas that you can work in include:
  • Treating household pets in a private rehab practice (like us), or by house calls
  • In a vet clinic providing rehab to injured & post surgical cases
  • The the horse/greyhound racing industry
  • In the country treating working animals
  • For the police/military treating their working dogs & horses
  • Exotic animals at a zoo, aquarium
  • Charity work at a rescue shelter

Ok, so I’m qualified & ready to enrol in the ABM course, how do I do it?

Next intake is the start of February 2019 and it encompasses 8 modules over 2 years. You’ll be travelling to Melbourne 4 times a year for a 4 day workshop (8 trips total, 32 days in class time), as well as many more hours online learning. It is a very in depth course but not so much that you can’t work full time. Most importantly, it’s a great course and thoroughly enjoyable. The teacher’s are very passionate about what they do and you’ll be joining a small but very driven group of professionals who are pioneering the animal rehabilitation profession in Australia.
Rhys Donovan.