Students learn to use animals to improve patient outcomes

February 11, 2020

By Diane Smith

Dr. Claire Peel Animal Assisted Dog Therapy Training.

Cokeita’s wavy hair spilled on the ground at the feet of several physical therapy students – she had no idea her tresses were a source of inspiration.

The students pondered a class assignment: How could they incorporate a relaxed Old English Sheepdog into physical exercises aimed at helping an injured construction worker bend or extend his wrist after surgery.

“In this case, a construction worker had a laceration to his forearm so deep that it cut his tendon,” explained Fritzi Quiñones, a second-year Doctor of Physical Therapy student at UNT Health Science Center.

The team used a real-life case based on a patient from a clinical rotation in an orthopedic outpatient setting. The patient’s daily activities included work and braiding his daughter’s hair.

Quiñones said physical therapy would improve the patient’s range of motion and help him return to daily activities at his prior level of function.

The group’s solution involved petting and braiding Coketia’s mane to improve dexterity.

“Petting the dog is another exercise that increases range of motion of the wrist – like being able to bend and extend it,” said Quiñones, who is among second-year physical therapy students taking Therapeutic Exercise II in the School of Health Professions.

Dr. Claire Peel Animal Assisted Dog Therapy Training.

Cokeita, the Old English Sheepdog, allows students to braid her coat as part of their class demonstration.

The group assignment was part of a recent lecture focused on using animals to enhance patient outcomes in physical therapy.

“The whole idea of this is to teach the students how they can incorporate a dog into their therapeutic exercises to help the patient,” said Claire Peel, PT, PhD and Vice Provost of Academic and Faculty Affairs for the UNTHSC.

Dr. Peel is a physical therapist who has been involved with animal-assisted therapy since 2004. She works with a local chapter of Pet Partners, a non-profit, and with the university’s Paws at Lewis Library program.

Dr. Peel said activities such as petting a dog or manipulating a dog’s harness can improve fine motor skills. Animals can motivate patients to perform difficult tasks, she said.

“It helps distract clients from pain so they can be more active and engaged in physical therapy,” Dr. Peel said.

Animal-assisted therapy helps hesitant patients be more open to therapy, said Mike Richardson, PT, DPT, DHSc and Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy.

“It’s a unique way to engage with patients,” Dr. Richardson said. “It’s important to form those partnerships with patients and then we can tie it back to the therapeutic exercise that is what this course is all about.”

Cokeita, who wore a ponytail at the top of her head at the recent lecture, allowed student Caesar Ramirez to braid her fur as a class demonstration. The students grinned as they watched Cokeita – a scene students described as good for their well-being.

“What dog doesn’t make you happy, right?” Quiñones said, adding it was a welcome break in a rigorous class.

“We work really hard, and it is very challenging sometimes, but today was one of kind,” Quiñones said. “I was smiling throughout the whole lecture because I could turn around and see the dogs. It’s good for us too because we are super stressed.”

Hsc Tcom Gold Humanism Society Inductees Fc
TCOM Chapter of the Gold Humanism Honor Society welcomes new inductees 

By Steven Bartolotta The humanistic side of medicine is alive and well at Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine. The TCOM Chapter of the Arnold P Gold Foundation inducted 45 students and four faculty members into the Gold Humanism Honor Society on the campus of The University of North Texas H...Read more

Jun 15, 2021

John Licciardone Hsc Fort Worth Fc
eHealth interventions could help African-American patients in battle with chronic pain

By Steven Bartolotta The PRECISION Pain Research Registry at the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth has identified important racial disparities in pain management that became more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. Its study recently published in the special COVID...Read more

Jun 14, 2021

Diana Cervantes. Assistant Professor Biostatistics & Epidemiology
Dr. Diana Cervantes named among Fort Worth’s ‘most influential’ for public health service during the pandemic

By Sally Crocker Dr. Diana Cervantes has spent the last year keeping people informed and updated on all things coronavirus, and now she’s being recognized as one of Fort Worth Inc.’s “400 Most Influential People” for helping protect the community’s health during the pandemic. Dr....Read more

Jun 8, 2021

Opal Lee photo by Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Commemorating Juneteenth

By Diane Smith-Pinckney On June 19 1865, Major General Gordan Granger marched into Galveston with a critical message: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”  This was the opening se...Read more

Jun 8, 2021