July 17, 2019

5 Benefits of Pets In Addiction Recovery

pets in addiction recovery | gratitude lodge

Entering addiction recovery can often feel like a very lonely journey. You’ve left friends and family behind and, despite the best efforts of counselors and fellow patients, addiction withdrawal comes with feelings of isolation. Breaking through this feeling of being alone is one of the most important early goals in your recovery. Having a good recovery companion is vital. Pets in addiction recovery can be a great way to ease the transition. When you’re in the middle of a detox and the withdrawal symptoms are causing discomfort, and the feelings of isolation start to creep in, the love and warmth of a pet can keep you going.

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“There are several benefits to having your furry friend with you in recovery.”

Many rehab centers don’t allow pets on the premises. Not only are they inconveniencing their patients, but they may actually be hindering their recovery. There are several benefits to going to a pet-friendly rehab center. In this article, we explore some of the key reasons that it is worth considering a treatment center that allows your pet to join you.


Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) has been shown to be effective in treating a number of mental health issues including substance abuse. Even patients who did not previously have a connection to the animal experienced greater levels of lasting recovery and less anxiety and depression. Pets in addiction recovery have been shown to trigger the release of endorphins. During recovery, your brain is learning to produce normal levels of endorphins on its own again. Finding ways to stimulate that process, from exercise to hobbies, has always been a key part of recovery. Ignoring the role that pets can play in that would be to ignore a valuable asset in recovery.


Your pet depends on you for its wellbeing. One of the common behavioral flaws of those with addiction issues is not being able to keep up with their responsibilities. Part of the recovery process is addressing this lack of accountability. Patients need small ways to take ownership of their lives and responsibilities. Taking care of a pet is an excellent example. With your pet by your side as your recovery companion, you’ll have a tangible reason to continue the treatment. The love you get from them produces a sense of purpose— pushing you in the direction you need to go. This feedback loop can be instrumental in positively reinforcing the actions you take to meet the responsibilities of your sober life.


When you’re fighting an addiction, it can be hard to form real social connections with others. You are focused on getting through the recovery stage, and this can cause you to be withdrawn and feel isolated from people around you. But when you have your pet by your side, that sense of bonding mimics social activity. In many cases, you may feel better interacting with your pet than doing so with other people. In many cases, we find that pets help our patients overcome awkwardness and social discomfort with others. Pets can serve as a kind of first-step to social interaction, offering patients a way to externalize their feelings and interact with something outside themselves. 


The impact of physical activity on addiction recovery has been well documented. Addiction is closely related to depression and anxiety, particularly when going through withdrawal. Exercise is an excellent natural way to stimulate endorphin production and combat depression. It rewires your brain and connects feelings of happiness with healthy activities. However, getting patients up and moving can be an uphill struggle. That’s why we love having pets in our facilities. They encourage our patients to stay active— even when they don’t feel “up” to the activity. Your pet is bouncing with energy and they don’t understand “I don’t want to”. They need to walk, run, jump, and play, and you’ll need to keep up.


In a world where things may not be going the way you once envisioned, your pet can be a secure, stabilizing force in your life. Things change, people change, but the love of your pet remains the same. Going into recovery often means upending your entire life. Leaving your friend group behind, being away from your family, and changing your habits and rituals. Successful recovery involves making new habits and connections and identifying the healthy ones that you can take forward with you. Pets are the perfect recovery companion. They are a connection to the security of your old life that can provide a sense of continuity in recovery. Your relationship with your pet can give you the motivation and support you need to make it to the finish line.


It is important to understand that your pet is not a magic cure. Addiction recovery is a difficult road. You will still need to detox and undergo therapy to reprogram your thinking and behaviors. Pets in addiction recovery can help ease the process. The love of your pet will go a long way to supporting the vital task of rebuilding your self-worth. Rehab is a transitional period. You are correcting negative behaviors, cutting your dependence to drugs and alcohol, and paving a new path for your life. You’ll need all the help you can get to navigate it. If you have a beloved pet, they should absolutely be by your side for the journey.

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Joe Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
Jenni Bussi

Jenni Russe MS, LPCC

Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

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