Animal Physical Therapy Programs


Although animals were purely functional for much of human existence, now they play a huge part in our social and emotional well-being. Instead of just being animals we keep for safety and transportation, animals have become like family members to many.

As the role of animals grows in importance, so does the need for better and more adaptive veterinary care. Animal rehabilitation specialists and physical therapists (PTs) are using cutting-edge human physical therapy techniques to enable our favorite creatures to have longer life spans and pain-free living. These programs typically combine didactic courses and hands-on experience to teach veterinary professionals the essentials of animal physiology, massage, and even acupuncture. Some focus on particular animals such as horses or dogs, while others take a more generalist approach.

In any case, by studying veterinary physical therapy one of the schools listed below, you are preparing to become a part of a new and exciting field that gives animals and their humans a better chance for lifelong happiness. Check out the top ten programs in animal physical therapy.

Rocky Mountain School of Animal Acupressure and Massage
Address : Elizabeth, Colorado

The Rocky Mountain School of Animal Acupressure and Massage offers technical continuing education credits for both veterinary doctors and assistants in alternative rehabilitation therapy. Their on-site certification programs include canine and equine acupressure and massage, in addition to online certification programs in canine massage and acupressure. Their curriculum is approved by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB). The full three-level canine massage program costs $5,100, including registration fees.

Looking to integrate massage into your care or treatment routine for horses? Rocky Mountain School of Animal Acupuncture and Massage also offers an equine massage program that includes coursework in therapeutic and sports massage. Including registration fees, their three-level equine massage program is $5,400. For those interested in acupuncture, their two-step large and small animal acupuncture program costs $4,900, including registration fees.

Northwest School of Animal Massage
Address : Fall City, Washington

This school offers an intensive, high-level certification program for Rehabilitation Massage Therapy. Courses are both online and in person, with several five-day on-campus trainings required in order to complete the program.

Students can choose from either small or large animal training and even have access to acupressure and aromatics elective courses. In addition, the Northwest School of Animal Massage is unique for offering performance and rehabilitation massage for large and small animals. They are an approved provider with certification from Washington State Department of Health, the Washington State Board of Massage, and the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB). They are also an accredited program and licensed by the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission (OHECC) and the Washington Workforce Training and Educational Certification Board (WTECB).

Notably, the Northwest School of Animal Massage is also the single nationwide provider of Manual Ligament Therapy for both dogs and horses. The cost of these programs is between $1,500 and $3,000 for the highest level of training.

Animal Behavior Institute
Address : McLean, Virginia

This school provides a wide variety of options for students interested in animal physical therapy and rehabilitation. All certification programs are accredited by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET) and qualify for financial aid and scholarship funds.

Students can choose from wildlife rehabilitation, laboratory animal behavior, and animal assisted therapy certificate programs. Each certificate is five courses (oughly 15 academic credits). Course modules are designed to maximize flexibility for working students; most students complete the certificate in a year, and courses may be taken in any order.

Specialized certificates are also available for either canine behavior or feline behavior, and require 100 hours of specialized training. Notably, students in this program must complete 40 hours of hands-on experience as an employee, intern, or volunteer. Tuition at ABI is $1,185 per course.

Animal Rehab Institute
Address : Loxahatchee, Florida

The Animal Rehab Institute is one of the most noted equine rehabilitation education centers in the world. They offer the following certificates for veterinarians, vet assistants, and physical therapists: equine rehab therapist, equine rehab assistant, equine kinesiology taping therapist, and equine massage therapist. Notably, their equine massage therapy program has no required prerequisites and is open to any who want to learn.

The college course instructors are highly regarded in their fields, hailing from equine veterinary programs like Colorado State University and Michigan State University. The hands-on courses take place over four to ten days at the working veterinary facility on the college campus. These programs cost between $4,300 and $6,300.

International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management (IVAPM)
Address : Nashville, Tennessee

This association provides online continuing education programs for veterinarians and vet assistants who want to specialize in animal rehabilitation and pain management. The courses include topics like perioperative analgesia, multi-modal management of canine osteoarthritis, and an overview of NSAID use.

The entire series of courses is $135 and counts towards a Certified Veterinary Pain Practitioner (CVPP) designation, which requires at least 90 hours of pain-related continuing education to apply.

Meredith Manor International Equestrian College
Address : Waverly, West Virginia

The Meredith Manor program combines hands-on practice and application with massage concepts to create their equine massage therapy certification program. This course of study requires completion of massage therapy courses and a horse training course with a 3.0 GPA or higher, 100 hours of logged hands-on equine massage time, and an intensive written exam.

This course teaches massage strokes and techniques, the causes of muscular fatigue and soreness, as well as the skeletal structure and musculature of the horse. Tuition is $4,518 for the program, including registration fees. On-campus housing is available for an additional $1,377.  Massage and training classes can be taken a la carte or as part of a full program.  Please note that individual classes are not eligible for Federal Financial Aid.

The Canine Rehabilitation Institute
Address : Wellington, Florida

The Canine Rehabilitation Institute offers one of the most well-respected certifications in the world of veterinary physical therapy. Their Certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapist (CCRT) designation is recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), as well as several other organizations.

The CCRT curriculum consists of three courses: introduction to canine rehabilitation, the canine rehabilitation therapist, and canine sports medicine. Students must also complete a 40-hour internship at a CRI-approved practice.

The Canine Rehabilitation Institute also offers a Certified Veterinary Acupuncture Therapist (CVAT) program, which consists of two required courses: introduction to veterinary medical acupuncture and veterinary medical acupuncture for sports medicine/rehabilitation patients. Students may also choose to take elective courses in canine and feline medical acupuncture or medical acupuncture for small animals, avian, and exotic patients. The total cost of the program is $4,500

The Healing Oasis
Address : Sturtevant, Wisconsin

Students who are interested in the rehabilitation success of chiropractic for animals CAN benefit from this program. This school's certification program focuses on the use of veterinary spinal manipulative therapy, massage and rehabilitation therapy, and advanced veterinary neurology to help injured animals heal.

Each program is accredited through the U.S. Department of Education as well as the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association (AVCA). They offer a Veterinary Spinal Manipulative Therapy Certification (VSMT), which provides 226 hours of supervised instruction and an intensive presentation of two case studies in their final module. This program is $6,810 and takes roughly six months to complete.

They also offer Veterinary Massage and Rehabilitation Therapy Certification (VMRT), which provides 142 hours of hands-on instruction over the course of five months. Tuition for this program is $4,985.

University of Nevada - Las Vegas
Address : Las Vegas, Nevada

The UNLV Animal Massage and Care Provider Certification program teaches basic rehabilitation skills for a broad range of animals. This program is recognized by both veterinary and wildlife rehabilitation associations, including the Bird Rescue Sanctuary, Dolphin Habitat, and Cheval Equine Show. This is a good program for veterinary students who might be interested in rehabilitation and care of both domestic and exotic animals.

Courses include IPTouch, trigger point massage, and anatomy. In addition to coursework, students must complete an externship where they demonstrate 40 hours of hands-on work with animals and 10 hours of project work.The cost for all 15 courses in the certification is $1,499.

University of Tennessee Knoxville
Address : Knoxville, Tennessee

The University of Tennessee is one of the most well-respected schools for veterinary rehabilitation, regardless of animal size or specialty. They offer a University of Tennessee Canine Rehabilitation Certificate Program (CCRP) through the Northeast Seminars online school. It is the only university-based program for canine rehabilitation approved through the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB) Registry of Approved Continuing Education (RACE).

In order to be accepted into the program, candidates must be a physical therapist, physical therapist assistant, veterinarian, or vet technician. The UT also offers certificates in equine rehab, canine fitness, and manual therapy. This program costs between $4,800 and $5,500.


Featured programs met the following criteria:

  • Notable in the field. Each of these schools has been highlighted by peers and professional organizations as a leader of education in their chosen field.
  • Accredited. These veterinary programs have been accredited through both regional and national accrediting bodies.
  • Certification Preparation. Students who participate in programs at these colleges are prepared to sit for national, certification, or other authorizing exams.
  • Success Rate. Students who graduate from these programs typically go on to be influential members of the industry. This may include leadership in professional organizations, research publication, and teaching responsibilities at high-level institutions.
Bree Nicolello (Writer)

Bree is an urban planner and freelance writer based in Seattle, WA. She has worked on land use and housing policy issues throughout the Pacific Northwest. She previously led Run Oregon Run, a nonprofit dedicated to helping Oregonians run for office and apply to boards and commissions. When not writing, she is lovingly tending to her cast iron pans.