"The truth is that physical therapists are not educated in the physiology of animals, and veterinarians are not trained to
provide physical therapy services," Schumacher says. "Unless you're trained in both, you shouldn't be doing it independently."
Evans predicts an accreditation mechanism will one day emerge. In the meantime, the American Board of Veterinary Specialties
is considering animal physical rehabilitation as a boarded specialty.
A case for rehabilitation
If that happens, Darryl Millis might be first in line for diplomate status. Millis, DVM, dipl. ACVS, CCRP, ranks one of the
nation's top rehabilitation experts and runs the only institution-tied animal physical therapy certification outlet in the
country, which he created a decade ago by teaming up with a physical therapist. Now the professor of orthopedic surgery with
the University of Tennessee's veterinary college reports 1,500 people currently are involved in the $5,500 canine course considered
the premier program for animal rehabilitation. Whether enrollees are veterinarians, technicians, physical therapists or physical
therapist assistants, the post-graduate education is the same: seven courses followed by a two-day examination and 40 hours
of required time in the field working with a veterinarian or program graduate.
It's rigorous, which makes it more unfortunate when rehabilitation gets lumped in with aromatherapy and acupuncture, Millis
says. "When people graduate, it's something to be proud of. The type of training we offer is cutting edge, based on a lot
of research that's been done," he says.
Still, Millis supports direct veterinary supervision when it comes to animal rehabilitation and frowns on states such as Utah
and Montana, which permits physical therapy via referral. A collaborative approach offers better care and serves to monitor
animal physical rehabilitation, which now appears everywhere, he says.
"As veterinarians become more familiar with rehab, they'll be the primary educators," Millis predicts. "Practice acts will
be seen as more protective of diagnosis and treatment. For this reason, I would classify physical therapy not as alternative
but complementary. It dovetails nicely with traditional veterinary medicine."