Careers in Animal Therapy


The field of animal therapy is a vast one and one that has been steadily growing over the years as more people seek to find answers that will further bond and connect them to the animal kingdom. People who are interested in pursuing a career in animal therapy need to determine if they would like to work directly with animals or if they prefer a more research-based career.

Massage Therapist

  • A career as an animal massage therapist will involve working on animals to help promote wellness through massage. Similar to massage therapy for humans, people practicing in this field are required to become licensed and registered by the state in which they plan to practice. Typically working in conjunction with a veterinarian, animal massage therapists can find themselves working with race horses or show dogs. According to the International Alliance for Animal Therapy and Healing, the work involves kneading and stroking certain muscle groups while paying close attention to the animal's reactions and noting any physical benefit as a direct result of the therapy. The therapist aims to help the animal increase circulation of blood and lymph, reduce pain, increase flexibility, reduce recovery time from illness and injury, relieve stress and improve overall well-being.

Behavior Therapist

  • A career in animal behavior therapy can involve being a trainer for domesticated pets, like helping a dog owner correct bad behavior in a pet or, for less domesticated animals, working to modify the behavior of formerly stray animals that lack proper socialization skills. Because the field is so diverse and inclusive of all types of behavior, it can include being a grief counselor for pets and their owners or a zoo employee, distinguishing behavior patterns of species like polar bears. A career as an animal behaviorist typically requires a doctorate degree but some employers will consider someone with a master's or bachelor's degree who has previous relevant experience.

Animal Assisted Therapy

  • Working in the field of animal assisted therapy involves discovering ways in which the interaction between humans and animals can result in positive mental, social and physical changes for both. The main target of this form of therapy is typically people who are in recovery for some form of mental or physical disability. According to Veterinary Technician Schools, patients who interact with animals as part of their therapy can increase their range of motion, strength, endurance, balance, mobility, sensation and more. In order to get started in this field, you will need a bachelor of science degree in an area such as physical therapy, nursing, psychology, social work or education. Certification courses in animal assisted therapy are also available.

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