Anatomy Knowledge

Updated: Mar 15, 2019

Revision tools - Labrador included!

One of the most important areas for a veterinary physiotherapy student, such as myself, to concentrate on is knowledge of the anatomical structures and their functions. It is imperative that any therapist working with animals has an extensive knowledge of what structures they are looking at, for a number of reasons; for example, what issues could arise from injury/malfunction of a particular structure, in relation to another.

Any work that a veterinary physiotherapist carries out will initially be based upon assessments using palpation, observations and gait analysis; without extensive knowledge of anatomy it will not be possible to effectively evaluate the animal. Clinical reasoning is a vital element to a veterinary physiotherapist’s work (Hunter and Arthur, 2016; Wijbenga, Bovend’Eerdt and Driessen, 2018), what is the reason for the action taken? Knowledge of anatomy is vital for this as without it an informed decision on the most appropriate action to take will not be possible. It is crucial to know the ‘normal’ to be able to see the abnormal (Pattillo, 2018).

At the start of the course I felt I had a relatively good knowledge of equine anatomy, with slightly less regarding canines. I have a BSc in Equine Sports Therapy and an Equinology Equine Body Worker qualification, both of which are heavily based on anatomy. I also have much more recently taken part in the Caninology Canine Body Worker course, so despite having years more experience with horses, I did have some prior canine anatomy knowledge.

Certificate from canine anatomy course

However, I soon discovered that I need to know everything in a lot more detail. One thing in particular struggle with is the origin and insertion of muscles, and the various differences between equine and canine anatomy. I often found myself confusing the who the more I learnt.

As I was aware how important anatomy is, I threw myself into revision. I am a visual learner, so I have spent many hours drawing diagrams, using apps and online programs, as well as textbooks, to revise. I am currently creating a portfolio of diagrams that I have drawn with the information I need to know. It was certainly overwhelming with the sheer amount of knowledge needed, but I firmly believe that practice makes perfect. The use of the apps and online programs have become part of my daily routine and I continue to draw diagrams as much as possible.

Drawing from portfolio

I have also found the dissection lectures extremely helpful, I find being able to see the real structures helps my understanding. I have booked myself onto a dissection session in June at my veterinary clinic, Blaircourt Equine Clinic, to gain further knowledge.

There is still so much more I need to learn regarding anatomy, but this is something I will continue to work on over a long period of time as so much detail is needed.


Hunter, S. and Arthur, C. (2016). Clinical reasoning of nursing students on clinical placement: Clinical educators' perceptions. Nurse Education in Practice, 18, pp.73-79.

Patillo, D. (2018). Anatomy of Equine Bodywork: The Equinology® Approach. Napa, California: Equi-Ink Publications, p.2.

Wijbenga, M., Bovend’Eerdt, T. and Driessen, E. (2018). Physiotherapy Students’ Experiences with Clinical Reasoning During Clinical Placements: A Qualitative Study. Health Professions Education.

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