Nina Salmelin Msci AdvCertVPhys MIRVAP
Registered Veterinary Physiotherapist

tel: 078 041 622 26          
    About Me  
Veterinary Physiotherapy Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if my dog needs physiotherapy?

Animals can communicate discomfort and pain in many ways. While they are not able to tell us directly, keep an eye on your dog and note down any changes in its behaviour, performance, stance or gait. 

Common indications that your dog may be in pain or discomfort include:
- limping or reluctance to move
- sitting or lying down more than before
- licking/biting of feet/body
- reduced performance
- sudden refusal or disobedience during training 
- not wanting to go on walks or sudden stops during walks
- stumbling, dragging of feet
- not wanting to jump on/off couch/car
- change in stance or gait
- irritability when groomed
- subtle changes in behaviour
- general irritability and restlessness
- aggressive or defensive behaviour
- withdrawn, lethargic

What qualifications does a veterinary physiotherapist need to treat my dog?

The three respected and extensive courses on veterinary physiotherapy in the UK are:
Canine and Equine Physiotherapy Training CEPT- IRVAP (Level 7 postgraduate advanced certificare in veterinary physiotherapy)
- Harper Adams University - NAVP (Degree/Postgraduate training in veterinary physiotherapy) 
Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Animal Therapy - ACPAT (Degree in human physiotherapy followed by postgraduate training in veterinary physiotherapy)

All three above qualifications ensure that your veterinary physiotherapist has the appropriate, extensive training required to treat your dog safely. I have completed the 2 year postgraduate advanced certificate in veterinary physiotherapy with CEPT. The training required extensive scientific background knowledge to understand the underlying links between scientific theories, current research and modalities used in practice. Placements and practical assessments ensured a high-quality hands-on and critically reasoned approach to cases and treatment programmes. A throrough understanding of canine structure and anatomy was improved through cadaver work, and a complete understanding of tissue structures and healing allowed for creating multifactorial rehabilitation and conditioning programmes.

As the term "veterinary physiotherapist" is not legally protected, anyone can call themselves a veterinary physiotherapist even if they have only attended a weekend course. Before booking anyone, ensure they have had appropriate training and are members of professional bodies such as IRVAP, NAVP or ACPAT. 

Recognized veterinary physiotherapy groups and organisations within UK:
1. The Institute of Registered Veterinary and Animal Physiotherapists- IRVAP (
2. The National Association of Veterinary Physiotherapists- NAVP (
3. The Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Animal Therapy- ACPAT (
4. The International Association of Animal Therapists- IAAT (
5. The Association for the Scientific Study in Veterinary and Animal PhysiotherapyASSVAP (

Why do I need a veterinary referral to take my dog to a physiotherapist?

Veterinary physiotherapists act under the guidance of the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 and Veterinary Surgery (Exemptions) Order 1962. According to these regulations, only veterinary surgeons are legally allowed to diagnose animals. Once the initial diagnosis has been made, the veterinary surgeon can pass the treatment to a physiotherapist via a referral. It is also in the best interest of your dog for your veterinary physiotherapist and veterinarian to communicate on all treatments and possible issues found to ensure the animal receives the best and most accurate care possible.

You can download the veterinary referral form here

How many treatments is my dog going to need?

At your first appointment your dog will be assessed throroughly and an initial treatment plan will be created. At this point, your dog may only need some home exercises which you can implement without the veterinary physiotherapist present. Alternatively your dog may benefit from more hands on treatments for a better long term prognosis. The amount of treatments depend on your dog's condition, your goals, how fast your dog's body responds to treatment and the modalities used. A treatment plan will be specifically tailored to suit your dog's needs and your own schedule. If at any point the treatment plan is adjusted, the new plan will be communicated to you.

Why is the first appointment longer and more expensive than subsequent appointments?

During the first appointment, a thorough assessment of your dog will be done which includes taking a comprehensive history, static (standing) and dynamic (moving) analysis, neurological testing and manual palpation. The manual palpation will include the assessment of muscle asymmetry and tone, changes within muscle texture and heat, joint restrictions, and behavioural subtle pain or discomfort responses. Your veterinary physiotherapist will be looking into the diagnosed issue (if there is one) and compensations elsewhere in the body to create a viable and effective treatment plan.

This first appointment will be the basis for which subsequent appointments and assessments are built on. The findings will be explained and treatment options discussed in detail. A discussion will also be had to incorporate your own goals and yourself within the treatment programme as home exercises will be an important part of the continued well-being of your dog. After this first assessment, the veterinary physiotherapist will also be better able to advise on how many treatments are likely to be needed and the frequency of these appointments to suit your schedule.

Would I able to book back-to-back appointments for more than one dog?

Back-to-back appointments for dogs within the same family are easier and encouraged. If you wish to book an appointment for more than one dog at a time, please let me know and I can schedule their appointments accordingly.

What should I do if I have to cancel my physiotherapy appointment?

If you need to cancel your appointment, please let me know as soon as possible so I can book other dogs for the time slot. There will be no charge for cancellations received more than 24 hours in advance, but if the appointment is cancelled within 24 hours of the appointment time you will be charged full price.

Can I claim the cost of physiotherapy on my pet insurance?

Many insurance companies provide cover for physiotherapy. Please contact your pet insurance company prior to starting treatment to confirm the amount of appointments or value covered and if you require special documentation from either your veterinarian or veterinary physiotherapist.

Is physiotherapy the same as my dog having a massage?

Massage is one of the techniques available to a physiotherapist. However this is only one technique among many that can be used to rehabilitate or condition your dog. A physiotherapist will also be able to use other hands-on techniques such as myofascial release, joint mobilisations and range of motion, stretching and trigger point release. In addition treatment plans will include electrotherapies such as pulsed electromagnetic field therapy (PEMFT) or phototherapy, and a varied exercice prescription programme.

How do I pay for an appointment?

Payment can be made in cash or by cheque at the time of the appointment. Additionally I will be able to take credit card payments, but there will be a 10% transaction fee.

Will my dog need time off after physiotherapy treatment?

Dependent on the treatment modality and the tissues worked on, it may be better to take it easy for the remainder of the day. Please rest assured that once treatment has been done, I will go through the recommendations for exercise for your dog. If you are planning on competing with your dog, please let me know prior to starting treatment as some treatment modalities are not recommended 24 hours before competition or strenous exercise.

How do I prepare my dog for a physiotherapy treatment?

Please also make sure that your dog
- is dry, as wet coat makes manual palpation more difficult and less accurate
- has Not had a walk just before as physiotherapy is already a work-out for your dog
- has Not been fed in the past 2 hours 
- has had a chance to go for a toilet break before the session

There are also some items that would be beneficial to have handy:
- treats your dog likes, especially important if your dog has allergies
- a calm and quiet space to treat (if you have more than one dog, please arrange a space where the treated dog can be alone and calm)
- soft bedding for your dog to lie on during treatment

After the appointment finishes, please make sure your dog has access to soft bedding to sleep on and plenty of water to drink. 

If you have any questions not covered, please do not hesitate to contact me! I would rather speak through any of your concerns than leave you with any uncertainties. You can also ask questions during the appointment, I am more than happy to talk you through the treatments :-) 

(c) Salmelin