There are many therapies other than the obvious mainstream ones. Sometimes called natural or complimentary therapies, they include hydrotherapy, acupuncture, massage, chiropractic, naturopathic, nutritional, psychological and preventative medicine.
Scope of Work
Complementary and alternative animal health care covers a very diverse range of therapies to meet animal needs. Many are based upon therapies that are used to treat humans with adaptations to animals. While some practitioners treat both humans and animals, many animal therapists are specialists on animals, or only on specific groups of animals.
Therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractics, massage, and more are often used to keep animals in peak condition or rehabilitate them after injuries or stresses. Animals receiving these therapies include working animals, racehorses, dressage horses, and guide dogs.
Work opportunities exist both for practitioners and their assistants (e.g. reception, record keeping, bookkeeping).
What You Need to Learn
- Taxonomy and genetics – differences between species & breeds within a species, naming conventions and classification
- Animal anatomy and physiology – how the animal body works, location of organs and how they're connected
- How to identify injuries and other causes of ill health – including terminology and treatments, first aid
- Basic nutrition and environmental requirements – understand the basic nutritional requirements and optimization of animal health, learn to monitor ambient air quality, light, humidity and so on.
- Fundamentals of microbiology – understand how microscopic organics can be beneficial to the gut, holistic health
- Animal welfare, ethics and legalities – understand the current legislation applied to animal health practices
- Broad awareness of treatment options – both mainstream veterinary practice and other complementary treatments and how to work with other health professionals
- Behavioural management and understanding – working with an animal’s natural behaviour rather than attempting dominance; understanding when an animal’s behaviour is unusual, how this may indicate illness or injury. For a therapist, specialised skills relating to one or more complimentary/alternative therapies
- Communications – clear oral and written communication skills, with an understanding of how to explain options and make recommendations to clients
- Physical exams – conducting physical exams safely with dogs, cats, horses, and other animals
- Management skills – financial, time, accessing existing records
Starting a Career
There are many pathways into working as a holistic natural therapist in the animal sector. Good first steps include:
- volunteer or work as assistant to any holistic clinic specialized in animals in your town;
- offer to do some administration work for a vet clinic or an animal organisation;
- enroll in courses about therapies, practices, and animal physiology;
- work in your neighborhood -- setting up as a dog walker or pet sitter to gain experience with animals;
- join a conservation society or get involved in field work;
- network -- look for associations, get to know local pet shop owners, look for hobby groups in your area.
- Holistic treatment and therapies are a rapidly growing market as animal owners are using more and more holistic treatments for themselves and, therefore, using these therapies to treat their furry loved ones.
Progressing a Career
You will notice that experience and knowledge are fundamental to progress in any career. You will have to keep updating yourself with new techniques, products, equipment. To progress in your career, you must:
- Know your market. Research competitors, what they have to offer differently and keep offering high quality service.
- Keep learning. Go out and study more. Look for specific courses. Gather materials.
- Increase your experience. Work with local professionals or attend shows and seminars to gain field experience. Ensure you spend time working with animals you're interested in. If you want to work with horses, go to a riding school.
- Network. Get to know people in your field. Look for opportunities to meet practitioners. Join associations, hobby groups, and more.
- Most animal practitioners are independent, working for themselves or in small boutique practices. The best way of progressing a career in holistic therapies for animals is by providing an excellent service to the animal and offer a very welcome and relaxing atmosphere to the pet owners. If they feel their loved ones are being looked after and see your attention to detail and dedication to the well-being of their pets, they will definitely recommend your work to their friends and family, and give you very good reviews.