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Unapologetically Not Veterinarians

29 Dec 2017

All of our clients should be aware that the therapists at the Canine Fitness Centre are NOT veterinarians.  Instead, they all hold a degree in physical therapy. Most of the people who seek care at the clinic actually like the fact that physiotherapists are doing the physio on their dogs. However, now and then we get questions about why we didn’t go into veterinary medicine or what the difference is between a veterinarian or a technician doing rehab or a physio.  I want to address these questions in this blog.


So, firstly, each therapist went into physiotherapy schooling because they had a desire to be a medical professional and physical therapy offered an autonomous career whereby you could actually assess, diagnose, and provide a treatment plan that could alleviate a person’s pain and restore their function.  And something a little crazy… we actually LIKE people!  Over the years, we’ve had many vets and technicians tell us that they are far more comfortable with animals than with people.  As physios who have chosen to work with animals, we’re usually good with both!  Physical therapy is very diverse.  The majority of therapists work with the musculoskeletal system (i.e. muscles, bones, spine, joints, post-operative, post-injury, athletes, etc.), but physiotherapy can also address rehabilitation of the nervous system (i.e. from stroke or spinal cord injury), the cardiovascular system (i.e. helping with breathing, or cardiac rehabilitation), pain management (i.e. not only using manual therapies, modalities, and exercise, but also with education, and graduated exposure to painful stimuli in a safe environment), vestibular rehabilitation (i.e. for dizziness), concussion rehabilitation, geriatric rehabilitation, incontinence rehabilitation, cancer rehabilitation, paediatrics, and more!  It’s a very diversified field to get into!  In fact, I’ve never met a physiotherapist who was disappointed with their career choice!  Many of us (who are doing animal rehab) had actually thought about going into veterinary medicine, but were not interested in many of the traditional aspects veterinary medicine (i.e. surgery, prescription of drugs, internal medicine…).


Those physios who choose to treat animals, usually have a deep-rooted love of animals, and became drawn to the potential that they could treat animals using their physiotherapy knowledge and skills.  The area of animal rehabilitation / physio actually began within the domain of physiotherapists in the UK, dating as far back as the 1950’s.  It’s only been in the last 14 years that veterinarians or technicians were given an opportunity to formally study animal rehabilitation.  The animal rehabilitation certification programs in the USA utilize physical therapists to teach vets and vet techs the art of palpation, identification of muscle or tendon dysfunctions, joint impairments, and spinal joint evaluation.  Physiotherapists have shared their knowledge in how to set a treatment plan, create functional goals, and actually DO the therapies (mobilizations, massage, myofascial techniques, modalities, exercise prescription, etc.).  It’s been physios that have led the way in educating non-physios in how to do animal rehabilitation.  In fact, as part of the training (of any of the certification programs), vets and vet techs are encouraged to do an internship at a practice that is run by or employs physiotherapists.  Why?  Because physiotherapists already possess ALL of the rehabilitation skills and knowledge that the other two professionals are trying to acquire.  


Here are some testimonials of veterinarians who have interned with the Canine Fitness Centre therapists:


“I really learned a lot about different ways to approach the work up, it was wonderful being able to work with different people. Everyone was very supportive to my questions, which I know can get overwheming at times! I can’t express how much the rehab education I received has changed the way I practice medicine.” 

Dr. Karla Scott,   Oro Medonte Veterinary Services, Barrie, ON


“I was so excited to feel all the dogs and cats since I have been back at work. I was a much better veterinarian this week than I was before my internship. Thank you for shining the light. Thank you for all that you let me see and do at your practice. It was a chance of a lifetime.” 

Dr. Pauline Harada, DVM,   Kaha’ako Pet Hospital,  Honolulu, Hawaii


“Thank you so much for the opportunity to learn more about rehabilitation. During the week I shadowed you and your staff I really noticed the caring and compassion you all showed your patients and clients. The professionalism of your reception staff, the underwater treadmill assistants and your physios was excellent.

To all the physios: thank you for your patience while I fumbled to do what you do so easily and with incredible skill. The people utilizing your services are indeed fortunate to have access to such a team. The modalities available, the diagnostic abilities, your boot camp and follow up programs, the manual therapies are all top notch.”

Dr. Ann Vander Hooft, DVM,   Moosejaw, SK


“I’ve been working for years as a referral veterinarian performing second opinion lameness assessments, chiropractic assessments, sports medical exams on competition dogs etc., and I found my internship with The Canine Fitness Centre Ltd extremely helpful.  They taught me a variety of techniques that have improved both my diagnostic and therapeutic skills.  It was information that would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to find elsewhere.

I particularly like their science based approach; that everything they do is rooted in a strong understanding of the underlying anatomic and physiologic principals.”

Dr. David Lane,  Points East West Veterinary Services, Whisler/Squamish, BC


“I spent a week at the Canine Fitness Centre in Calgary where I was fortunate enough to observe all of their therapists in action. I was very impressed by their interactions with the clients and their pets during every appointment which I was involved in. Each therapist had fantastic communication skills with the owners, making both them and their pets feel comfortable during their time there. I was fortunate enough to be able to see a variety of cases from post op TPLOs, IVDD/neuro cases, lameness and geriatric/OA dogs. During the course of the week I also got to see the progression of a case from the initial appointment with the therapists to the post operative cases well on their way to being discharged. It was a rewarding week for me as I got to review and implement my knowledge as well as having the ability to observe and learn from a group of professionals who have the skills and knowledge of years of practice in this area. I highly recommend the Canine Fitness Centre as a great location to complete an internship for this program, as well as to refer patients for therapy in the Calgary area as it is an amazing resource available to local veterinarians for their patients!”

Dr. Kira Penney, WCVM, Saskatoon, SK



“I felt very fortunate to be able to spend time with Laurie as well as the other therapists and staff at the Canine Fitness Centre. It was a warm relaxed atmosphere for myself as well as the clients and patients. I feel like watching these patients be treated is watching a miracle. To see pain disappear and hear about how the pets are being helped was a joy.  I am so thankful that this area is growing and wish more people could see how much rehabilitation can do. I truly feel that my time spent at the Canine Fitness Centre has made me a better vet."

Julianna Parsons, DVM,  Nova Scotia


“I had the pleasure of spending four days at the Canine Fitness Centre in Calgary, Alberta.  I practice veterinary medicine in Winnipeg and had to travel a long way as there is not a comparable practice nearby.  During my stay, I was given the opportunity not just to observe, but to participate.  I was included in the thought process, palpation, and also in various treatments.  The experience was not only invaluable to enhancing my skills, but it has also served as a reminder of the importance of mentorship.  Any successful person in any profession typically has a resource, a person or group that is willing to share their knowledge and expertise.  As a veterinarian who has certified in acupuncture, chiropractic and canine rehabilitation, my visit allowed me to assimilate a great deal of information that prior to that point, I was having great difficulty doing on my own.  Thank you Laurie, Margaret, Amalia and Jennifer for being such a great resource, not only for me, but for the veterinary profession.  Your hard work and dedication is greatly appreciated.”

Dr. Rita McKay, DVM, CVA, CoAC, CCRT, Winnipeg, MB


"Be prepared not only for a great physical work-out but for mental gymnastics when you intern with Laurie and the team of professionals at the Canine Fitness Centre. Thank-you all for the exceptional learning experience!" 

Deborah Boyd, MSc, DVM, CVAc, CAC, CCRT(pending) 

Grey Bruce Pet Hospital,  Owen Sound, Ontario



“I have a quarter century career in veterinary medicine and despite a keen interest in body mechanics I have not come close to doing justice to the musculoskeletal system. My profession has failed me in this area and I too often have felt like I have, in turn, failed my patients due to a lack of knowledge. As always – the more you get to know the more you realize how little you know. What I have gained through brushing the surface of canine rehabilitation medicine is a huge respect for the field of physiotherapy and especially for the pioneers who have applied these concepts to animals - creating the field of Animal Rehabilitation. The team at The Canine Fitness Centre are not only such pioneers but also fearless innovators and teachers. These people don’t stand still! They move against convention and mediocrity – challenging themselves and other animal care workers into furthering and spreading the knowledge around animal rehabilitation. They are a gift to animals, but also to the interns, like myself, that they have helped to train. EVERYONE who wants to wear the label of veterinarian should be taking a course in animal rehabilitation. My thanks to the Canine Fitness Centre!”

Dr. Joan Brocklebank, Humble Veterinarian from BC



“After spending a week with the physios at the Canine Fitness Centre I can really appreciate how much you can learn about your patients from thoughtful palpation.  The practice is centered on thorough manual evaluations and treatments as well as great client communication and relationship building.  I was amazed at how much the canine patients allow you to do during a treatment and how satisfying it is to appreciate pain, then be able to resolve it with manual therapies.  I am already using many of the manual techniques I leaned in my own practice.”  

Dr. Wendy Herlihy, DVM, CCRT, Colorado



“I attended the Canine Fitness Centre in September 2016 for a 40 hour internship in order to complete the requirements for certification (canine rehabilitation therapist) through the Canine Rehabilitation Institute. I chose this practice because I wanted to learn from leaders in the field. All of the therapists are human physiotherapists with years of experience and additional training in canine rehabilitation. Treatments are based on research and they are dedicated to changing the way that your canine companions are rehabilitated after injury or surgery. They are tirelessly changing the quality of life of your senior companions. Aside from providing several services such as exercise programs, laser, PEMF, shock wave, and underwater treadmill, the most valuable tool they have is their skilled hands.  They can detect abnormalities in soft tissues and joints and perform manual therapies that the average veterinarian without additional training cannot do. Veterinarians and dog owners are very lucky to have this practice available for referral and consultation. I would highly encourage veterinarians in the surrounding areas to visit the practice and see first-hand the skills they have to maximize the physical potential of your patients and work collaboratively with this phenomenal team of professionals.” 

Dr. Robin Rainford, DVM (Coastland Veterinary Hospital, Campbell River, BC)



So, what should this mean to you?  It should mean that when you chose to bring your pet to The Canine Fitness Centre, your therapist will have years of knowledge and experience in human physiotherapy applications, great palpation skills and deductive reasoning, and a rock-solid grounding in all aspects of rehabilitation.  Your therapist will have gone the extra distance to become educated and certified in canine rehabilitation (and learned about canine anatomy and conditions).  As well, your therapist will have a strong desire to work with your veterinarian to be a part of your pet’s overall wellbeing!


And for all of these reasons, we are unapologetically NOT veterinarians, but instead physios with advanced training to provide physio to your pet!




Sue   Sandra 



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