Could human-animal therapy sessions bring you closer to your pet? This Lowestoft vet thinks so

Paola van Dijk with her dog Ivy. Photo: van Dijk Veterinary Services

Paola van Dijk with her dog Ivy. Photo: van Dijk Veterinary Services - Credit: Archant

A vet is encouraging people to take part in human-animal therapy sessions in the belief it will give them a stronger bond with their pet.

Paola van Dijk, who lives and works in Lowestoft, believes pet owners should participate in counselling to alleviate stress and encourage healthier relationships.

The 34-year-old said: 'Having a close bond with your pet is one of the greatest joys of animal ownership but it doesn't always happen and can lead to stress for both sides of the relationship.

'What I have noticed working in a small animal practice is that people come in with problems bigger than just the animal.

'For an appointment you usually have 15 minutes – it's not enough time to investigate the other issues.'

Dr van Dijk added: 'I always wanted to work within the pet therapy field. Seeing how this bond affects both my patients and my clients I decided to focus on how to improve it – so the animals and the person's wellbeing can be boosted.'

She explained that no matter what kind of pet you have whether it be cat, dog or hamster, they can become a therapy animal and provide support.

Most Read

And with van Dijk Veterinary Services the vet hopes to support a healthy relationship between people and their vets by working out owners needs and finding solutions to stressful situations.

Dr van Dijk added: 'There have been studies which have proved people who own a pet are less likely to have a stroke.

'From our experience, a holistic approach is the only way to achieve this healthy relationship. This type of approach is quite developed and known in the US, while in the UK is still at the beginning.

'I'll be only the second vet in the country to provide it and the first one in east Suffolk.'

The vet has practiced the approach with her own pet – a one-year-old Staffordshire bull terrier called Ivy.

And added: 'She helps increase my exercise levels and provides emotional support. When she is around it like everything is going to be ok.'

For more information on the animal bond practitioner service email

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter