The use of animal-assisted therapy in combination with physical therapy in an inpatient rehabilitation facility: A case report

Caitlin Denzer-Weiler, Kimberly Hreha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is a growing form of intervention in the field of rehabilitation often with the goals of decreasing pain, anxiety, and depression. There is a lack of literature on the use of AAT in inpatient rehabilitation facilities (IRF). Purpose: This intrinsic case report describes the use of AAT in combination with physical therapy (PT) in the treatment of a middle-aged female status-post spinal surgery. Materials and methods: This patient was treated with standard of care physical and occupational therapy in an IRF with the addition of AAT within 32% of the therapy sessions. AAT sessions focused on sitting and standing tolerance, standing balance, endurance, ambulation, stair negotiation and kitchen mobility. Clinical measures included the 6 Minute Walk Test (6MWT), the Functional Independence Measure (FIM) total score and the FIM motor subscale score. Clinical findings: From admission to discharge from the IRF, change was noted in the areas of sitting tolerance, total FIM score, the motor subscale score of the FIM, and on 6MWT distance. Due to other therapies simultaneously occurring, no conclusions on AAT as a treatment can be made. AAT did provide more opportunities for this patient to engage in therapeutic activities. Conclusion: AAT was used during PT, in attempt to facilitate participation and distract from pain in order to work on therapeutic activities and achieve the patient's functional goals. This case report can be used as a model for other IRF therapy programs interested in AAT, can provide information about a therapeutic modality and hopefully will inspire future rigorously designed research studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-144
Number of pages6
JournalComplementary Therapies in Clinical Practice
StatePublished - Aug 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Animal-assisted intervention
  • Animal-assisted therapy
  • Inpatient rehabilitation facility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Complementary and alternative medicine


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