Physical therapy techniques used on humans now being practiced to treat animals

Posted at 10:12 AM, Mar 18, 2019

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — They say a dog is a man's best friend but for many of us, they're our family members and if our family members was sick, there's not much we wouldn't do to help, including physical therapy.

In Omaha, some owners now have the option to treat their pets to animal physical therapy at one clinic downtown.

Dr. Kirk Peck was a key figure in bringing the unique physical therapy to the state and says this is the future of pet care. For years, he and other advocates worked to get Nebraska to allow licenses physical therapists get specific certifications to be able to work with animals if they got a veterinarian referral.

Dr. Peck was the first physical therapist to get certified in K-9 and Equine rehabilitation, making him only one of three certified in the state.

"I actually carry two licenses in Nebraska - one to treat humans and the other to treat animals," said Peck. "We had to change their state laws for the practice of veterinary medicine first, and then we had to write regulations for working with the board, and that took several years for us to write the additional educational requirements for physical therapists to be able to practice on animals."

Dr. Peck says the new concept is a more natural way to treat everyday injuries.

"You've got veterinary medicine but on top of that there's cases where they need surgery, they need post-op care, just like in humans. Or they get regular injuries from say sporting events, agility dogs, hunting dogs, sheep herding dogs, you name it, they're going to have common injuries just from their activities," added Dr. Peck.

It's a benefit not only for the pets, but also vets. Dr. Drew Olson, who owns Farnam Pet Hospital downtown partnered with Dr. Peck to include pet physical therapy at his clinic.

"For pets that maybe are having troubles with different medications, or having side effects, or having reactions, now we can start on physical therapy or rehabilitation first," said Dr. Olson. "Necessity is the biggest driver of progression. And I had a patient that was over 160 pound mastiff and he lived downtown. And he was on chronic medication. Basically, he wasn't unable to walk anymore on chronic medications. I didn't have any other options, especially when I upped dosages or tried different medications because he would get reactions."

The therapy is done with the pet owner present. Their job is to learn the simple some of the therapy exercises and continue the therapy at home.

"I always have to hear from the owner, what is the dog not doing that they were, because that becomes kind of a key sign to see if they automatically return to doing it. And dogs are interesting, because if they stop doing things, like jumping up on furniture, there's a purpose behind that. And when they feel better, they don't tell you let's go try this, they just go do it," said Dr. Peck.

After seeing a positive response from pet owners, Dr. Peck is now helping the pet physical therapy grow in schools. He is the Chair of the Department of Physical Therapy at Creighton University and is offering unique hands-on learning opportunities for students, making him the first faculty member to bring animal physical therapy to Nebraska.

Creighton University is one of the few schools in the country to have an experienced staff member on hand and is driving some students, like Lisa Ferguson to attend Creighton to learn how human physical therapy techniques can be adapted to treat animals.