From a Animal physiotherapist to a Doctor in Veterinary Physiology

SAMK’s former student Heli Hyytiäinen was the first physiotherapist in Finland to defend her dissertation in veterinary physiology.

For Heli Hyytiäinen the profession of a vet was always the only possibility. However, in high school she started to consider other options. During her gap year she saw an ad on physiotherapy studies in English at SAMK and she enrolled for physiotherapy studies in Pori.

This is definitely her own field and she says that wouldn’t change it. She always treats sick animals with vets and there is a lot of cooperation.

“There are no conflicts and it is really rewarding to work in a multidisciplinary team. Therefore, I work in clinics and feel that I have a dream job. “


After her studies in physiotherapy, Heli made some deliberate choices. First she started specialisation studies in animal physiotherapy in Lahti and after that she enrolled for a Master’s Degree Programme in Veterinary Physiology in London. Master’s degree studies were the only way for her to complete her doctoral dissertation in the way she wanted to. She had started to collect data for the dissertation already before she started her Master’s degree.

Right after the Master‘s degree studies she started her doctoral studies in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Helsinki. She defended her dissertation on a Finnish Canine Stifle Index in May 2015. The dissertation was the first of its kind in Finland. There are now two people in Europe who have completed their dissertations on animal physiotherapy. The whole world has now six.


Since animal physiotherapy is her passion, Heli Hyytiäinen teaches in all specialization studies in animal physiotherapy at SAMK. In addition, she teaches students studying in the Master ‘s Degree Programme in Veterinary Physiotherapy in Liverpool. She teaches a wide variety of topics but her favourite field is biomechanics. Biomechanics is a specialty on movement: what forces affect it and how the actual movement is carried out.

Client service

The clients mostly consist of dogs and horses. Animal patients have often become paralyzed or they suffer from orthopaedic diseases or injuries. “I’m lucky because my clientele varies. On the one hand I treat athletes, on the other hand I work with very sick clients who get rehabilitation.

Four animal physiotherapists work in the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Even worldwide the number of animal physiotherapists is significant.


From Vihti

Bachelor of Health Care, physiotherapist (AMK), SAMK 2000

Master of Science in Veterinary Physiotherapy, Royal Veterinary College , 2012

Doctor of Philosophy (small animal diseases), University of Helsinki, 2015

Main occupations: Researcher, Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Equine Veterinary Centre, Hippomedi

Text: Anne Sankari

Photo: Sanna Hyytiäinen

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