4 min read

A Day in the Life of a Pet Rehabilitator


Written by Aurus Sy

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 05/26/2023, edited: 06/02/2023


Physical rehabilitation can help us recover faster from an injury or have a higher quality of life when living with a chronic condition. And the same goes for our companion animals. Despite its challenges, being a pet rehabilitator can be a very fulfilling career. Few things are more satisfying than helping an injured animal regain their mobility or a senior pet stay active in their golden years, so many are choosing to train in animal rehabilitation.

What does it take to become a pet rehabilitator, and what’s a day in the life of one like? Read on to learn more about this exciting and emerging pet care profession!

small white and brown dog in leg braces walking up a ramp with pet rehabilitator

What is pet rehabilitation?

The goal of pet rehabilitation is to achieve the highest level of function, independence, and quality of life possible for animals with painful or limiting conditions. Patients of veterinary physical rehabilitation include overweight pets, seniors, athletes, animals with congenital abnormalities, those recovering from injuries or surgery, and those suffering from orthopedic, neurologic, or chronic diseases.

Pet rehabilitation helps restore mobility, decrease pain, improve strength, and speed up recovery from surgery or injury. There are a number of therapeutic modalities in animal rehabilitation, which include:

Rehab therapies can benefit animals with a variety of issues, including but not limited to:

Golden Retriever dog receiving laser therapy - A Day in the Life of a Pet Rehabilitator

What does a pet rehabilitator do?

A pet rehabilitator is a veterinarian, veterinary technician, or other licensed healthcare professional who has been certified in animal rehabilitation. 

A rehabilitation veterinarian leads a rehabilitation team, which can consist of technicians, physical therapists, support staff, and other trained professionals. They work closely with a patient’s primary care and specialty vets, determine an appropriate rehabilitation program for the patient, and prescribe pain medications if needed.

A rehabilitation veterinary technician works directly under the supervision of a rehabilitation veterinarian. They are responsible for carrying out the prescribed therapies, assisting patients in exercise routines and performing massages and stretches on them. 

What qualifications do you need to become a pet rehabilitator?

Pet rehabilitation certification programs are postgraduate courses that are only available to licensed professionals such as veterinarians, veterinary technicians/nurses, physical therapists, and physical therapy assistants. Some programs accept vet techs who are not licensed as long as they provide a letter of recommendation from their supervising veterinarian, as well as veterinary and physical therapy students who show proof of enrollment. 

Pug running on a treadmill

How long does it take to become a pet rehabilitator?

Certification programs typically consist of multi-hour online classes, multi-day in-person sessions, a 40-hour internship/externship, and a final examination. Some programs allow students to enroll in each module separately, while others need to be taken as a single course. Depending on the program and the individual’s schedule, certification can be obtained within a few to several months.

As animal rehabilitation is still a relatively new field, only a handful of schools in the country offer certification programs. One of these is the Certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapist (CCRT) program, offered to veterinarians and physical therapists by the Canine Rehabilitation Institute. In this program, candidates for certification must finish three modules, take an open-book exam, and complete an internship with an approved clinical instructor. Canine anatomy and physiology, animal handling techniques and safety, physical therapy assessment techniques, and the business of canine rehabilitation are among the topics covered. 

Other certification programs include the Veterinary Massage and Rehabilitation Therapy (VMRT) program by the Healing Oasis Wellness Center, the Certified Companion Animal Therapist (CCAT) program by Northeast Seminars and the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, and the Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner (CCRP) program by the Veterinary Academy of Higher Learning and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

cream Golden Retriever dog receiving therapeutic ultrasound therapy

What does an average day look like for a pet rehabilitator?

As mentioned earlier, a pet rehabilitator can be any licensed healthcare professional who has been certified in animal rehabilitation. For this section, we’ll take a look at what an average day might look like for a rehabilitation veterinary technician. Aside from providing care to patients, what other responsibilities do they have?

Applying prescribed therapies

Rehabilitation veterinary technicians are in charge of performing the therapies prescribed by the rehabilitation veterinarian. They assist patients in exercise routines that may focus on improving balance, strength, endurance, speed, proprioception, or neurologic function. This means guiding animals in using physioballs, wobble boards, cavaletti rails, balance discs, treadmills, and other therapeutic exercise equipment. 

Rehab vet techs also perform manual techniques such as massage, stretching, and range of motion (ROM) exercises on patients. And if the patient’s treatment plan includes physical modalities, it is their job to operate and apply these therapeutic tools as well. Physical modalities can include thermotherapy, cryotherapy, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), ultrasound, and laser therapy.


Keeping patient records accurate and up-to-date is another important part of a rehabilitation veterinary technician’s daily routine. Any member of the rehabilitation team should be able to understand each patient’s needs and past treatments when referring to their record. 

The rehab vet tech also takes note of the patient’s progress and records their pain score during each visit. Should they notice anything abnormal, it is their duty to inform their supervisor.

Client communication and education

Client communication and education is part of a rehabilitation veterinary technician’s job too. They educate pet parents on the prescribed therapies and provide guidance for home exercises through verbal directions and printed instructions. They may also keep track of the client’s adherence to the home exercise program by documenting this in the patient record.   

French Bulldog receiving a therapeutic massage

How much does a pet rehabilitator make per year?

Certification in animal rehabilitation commands a higher salary. It is estimated that a pet rehabilitator makes $50,000 to $70,000 per year.

If you have a love for animals and a desire to help them, then you might just have what it takes to become a pet rehabilitator. Though it’s not the easiest career path to take as you’ll need to be a licensed healthcare professional before you can achieve certification, you’ll be making a difference in the lives of animals every day.

For pet parents, paying for your dog's rehabilitation can be a major financial burden. Compare leading pet insurance companies to find the right plan for your pet and your pocketbook!

Comments (2)

caroline natalia


thank you

caroline natalia


thank you www.google.com

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