How I Entered the World of Animal Physio

How it started...

From a young age, animals have been an integral part of my life. I was the child that always had pets - be it birds, mice, cats and horses. Even sheep - which my father had on his horticultural research station.

I initially chose a career in Occupational Therapy, and after graduating from the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) I worked for two years in tertiary teaching hospitals in Auckland. My areas of practice included orthopaedic wards, burns, plastic surgery, and hand and upper limb rehabilitation. I relocated to London for two years, where my focus was largely in working with patients living with a disability within the community. I worked in London alongside travel to neighbouring European countries, and thoroughly enjoyed my overseas experience.

When I returned to New Zealand I found myself at a cross-roads within my professional career. I realised there were very specific areas of practice that I enjoyed working in, and all involved physiotherapy. I also had a love for animals, and wanted to work in the veterinary industry. So, while I was in this process of deciding where my career would go, I decided to study Veterinary nursing (via an external programme) while working full-time in day job as an Occupational Therapist in Child Development.

"Whisper My Name" - the tipping point.

It was about this time that ‘Whisper My Name” came into my life. “Whiz” as she was affectionately known was a thoroughbred horse born in New Zealand in 1999. Her sire was Paris Opera (AUS), and dam Lauretta Lou (NZ). With such good lineage it was expected that she would carry the same performance her parents did. Unfortunately, despite being under the good training of Kelly Meenehan, Whiz had two race starts and on both occasions got through the gates only to be found eating grass within approximately 100metres of the start line. She found her way into my life in April 2006, and enjoyed being thoroughly spoilt, ridden along the beach, and prancing past the neighbours house – of course they would always pop out to say hello!

Unfortunately, in July 2007, Whiz sustained a fracture to the right cannon bone after slipping in a hole in her paddock one night. The outcome of cannon bone fractures is grave - surgery is expensive, carries high risk, and rehabilitation is extensive with no guaranteed success. We made the difficult decision to say goodbye to Whiz the following day. In the months that followed I reflected a lot on what had happened, and what I could have done had I the finances to perform the risky surgery that may have enabled her to walk, and the professional skills to rehabilitate her.

Motivated by this experience and loss, I wanted to help other injured animals, and to be able to learn the skills needed to rehabilitate them so they could go on to live a full and meaningful life after injury.

It was during that time my employer introduced me to an Animal Physiotherapist. By that stage, I was in my second year of study as a Veterinary Nurse and working in a local veterinary clinic. I explored the various options available for studying this new pathway of Animal Physiotherapy and decided that the best pathway for me would be to return to university and study a human Physiotherapy Degree and follow this with postgraduate studies in Animal Physiotherapy.

Optima Animal Physio - the beginnings to where we are now!

Fast-forward to 2012, I graduated with a Bachelor of Physiotherapy from AUT and moved to Australia to pursue further studies in Animal Physiotherapy. I practiced as a physiotherapist for approximately 8 years in large teaching hospitals, private practice and palliative care, gaining a wealth of skills and experience in multiple fields.

In 2017 I made the transition to Animal Physiotherapy, where I was fortunate to take a position working as an Animal Physiotherapist in Sydney at the Small Animal Specialist Hospital (SASH). SASH is a purpose-built veterinary specialist hospital for small animals with experienced specialists in every veterinary field, and houses the latest veterinary technology, with advanced imaging modalities including the only animal-specific MRI in Australia. I loved working alongside veterinary specialists, nurses and the rehabilitation team where I was exposed to so many different patient conditions and treatment options, and learnt as a physiotherapist how to rehabilitate patients from the simple to most complex of conditions.

In 2020 I relocated to the Sunshine Coast, Queensland and opened my own business, Optima Animal Physio. OPTIMA Animal Physio is a physiotherapy service specialising in the treatment and rehabilitation of domestic, working and performance animals and is located on the Sunshine Coast, Australia. We work across veterinary specialist centres in Brisbane, North Lakes and Noosa. Our mission is to help animals recover from injury, surgery, ameliorate pain and stiffness, increase mobility and help to address the cause of their issues to prevent further injury. We are guided by our physiotherapy assessment findings and the best available literature as to how to manage our patients to help them return to their optimal function and performance.

At Optima Animal Physio we are passionate about animal physiotherapy and its unique complement to veterinary medicine, and we work closely with other members of the veterinary team that may be involved in patient’s care, such as surgical specialists, veterinarians, and hydrotherapists to ensure the best outcomes for our patients.

We look forward to seeing Optima Animal Physio continue to grow and provide exceptional Animal Physiotherapy services to the growing needs of our Brisbane and Sunshine Coast animal community.


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