The Animal Rehab Division (ARD) is a special interest group within the Canadian Physiotherapy Association (CPA).

We are a group of physical therapists passionate about the physical health and function of our canine and equine patients.

We realize the importance of animals in our society and appreciate the joy of seeing them reach their full potential, whether in old age, post surgically, after an injury, or in sport or pleasure.


The Animal Rehab Division (ARD) advocates that physiotherapists are the professionals of choice to provide animal rehabilitation. The ARD is a source for the best practice of animal rehabilitation through education, professional development and communication within the animal health care industry.


The ARD embraces the ethical guidelines of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association and values the inter-relationships between the animal, animal owner/guardian, veterinarian and other animal health care providers.


  • Improve the neuromusculoskeletal health of animals
  • Promote the advancement of clinical practice in animal rehabilitation
  • Increase the awareness of and access to animal rehabilitation by registered physiotherapists

What is animal rehabilitation?

Animal rehabilitation is the application of physical therapy assessment and treatment techniques to the animal patient. Physical therapy in the human field is a health care profession directed at evaluating, restoring and maintaining physical function and movement. Equipped with a specialized university degree and intensively educated in anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, histology, neurology and pathology, physiotherapists are able to assess, diagnose and treat movement and function. The goals of physical therapy are to relieve pain, restore range of motion and movement, improve function, prevent injuries, and expand the physical potential and quality of life of the patient.

Once in the field, physical therapists actively continue their education to keep current on the latest treatments and technologies. Via continuing education courses, physiotherapists can learn how to apply their unique and specialized knowledge to animal species.

Working with the owner, veterinarian, and other animal-related professionals, a physical therapist trained in animal rehab can help your animal achieve and maintain optimal health and well-being.

How can animal rehabilitation help?

Assessment: A physical therapist trained in animal rehabilitation will evaluate your animal’s movement, spinal and joint function, strength, co-ordination, and other physical abilities and properties to determine the impact of an injury, degenerative or inflammatory disease, or disability. You should consult a veterinarian to give your animal a full physical exam before seeking a physical therapist rehabilitation assessment.

Physical diagnosis and treatment plan: Your physical therapist will determine how best to restore proper movement and reduce the pain from an injury or disability based on scientific knowledge and a thorough assessment of your pet’s condition, lifestyle and environment. He or she will work with you to plan an individualized treatment program.

Evaluation and treatment: Your physical therapist may utilize a variety of tools and methods available to them in order to evaluate and treat your animal:

  1. Modalities refer to the tools or machines utilized by therapists and may include ultrasound, laser, electrical muscle stimulation, magnetic field therapy, acupuncture and others.
  2. Manual therapy encompasses mobilizations, manipulations, massage and stretching. Physical therapists have specialized training in biomechanics of the spine and extremity joints and of muscle origins, insertions and actions.
  3. Exercise prescription: Your physical therapist has unique, specialized training that enables him or her to assess and appropriately address the exercise needs of your animal’s neuromusculoskeletal conditions or injuries at every stage of healing.

How do I know if my animal needs rehabilitation?

  • Has your animal had an accident, trauma, or a recent, past or recurrent injury that is limiting movement or causing pain?
  • Has your animal had a recent surgery (orthopedic or spinal surgeries in the human field are always followed by physical therapy)?
  • Is your animal not functioning or performing to the best of his or her ability (whether able to go over a jump or just get up from lying)?
  • Does your animal perform in competitive activities (strength and endurance training may be beneficial)?
  • Has your animal developed a behavioural problem for no apparent reason (causes can include ill health or pain)?
  • Does your animal have a sore back when you pet or brush it?
  • Has your pet developed weakness anywhere?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then your animal may benefit from a physical therapy assessment and treatment.