Pets and Recovering Addicts: How Animals Can Help in the Treatment of Addiction

Pets and Recovering Addicts: How Animals Can Help in Addiction

The bond we share with animals can help us through some difficult times. This is especially true when it comes to addiction treatment. The use of pets and animals in addiction therapy can help to achieve results in some people that would otherwise not be attained. In the case of pets and recovering addicts, some patients not only stay in the program for longer but also achieve greater results.

In this article, we will look at some of the animal therapy for addiction that is commonly used and why it is so successful.

Why Use Animals?

Many addicts can find it difficult to express their emotions during therapy. In this situation, an animal such as a dog or horse can help the patient in their recovery through the animal’s unconditional acceptance, helping to put the patient at ease. Used mostly in cases where the patient is non-communicative or withdrawn, animal-assisted therapy can help to bring a patient from this state into a conversational tone, aiding in the therapeutic process.

Through various studies, it was found that there is a clear connection between horse-assisted therapy and the completion of addiction treatment. When horse-assisted therapy was present, patients were more willing to complete the entire treatment program than those who did not partake in this form of alternative therapy.

The reduction of stress and the safe space that the animal therapy creates can be beneficial to recovery in several ways. For this reason, it is especially effective in situations where the person may feel ashamed or embarrassed by their past actions. Furthermore, the activities that the pets and recovering addicts partake in can help to distract the patient from their cravings.

Types of Animal Therapy for Addiction

There are two ways in which animals can be used in therapy: pet therapy and animal-assisted therapy.

Pet therapy is often used in settings other than addiction treatment. It is where an animal such as a dog is brought to someone by a volunteer. It is used to help them deal with stress and provide joy to people who have gone through difficulties such as addiction or surgery. Through the release of hormones brought on by the love and companionship that the animal gives, improved mental and physical health can be achieved.

The animal-assisted therapy combines the benefits of pets and recovering addicts with behavioral therapy. Therapists, counselors and social workers assist the process and help to create a therapeutic setting. The most commonly used animals include canine-assisted therapy and equine-assisted therapy (dogs and horses).  An addiction therapy dog provides several benefits including helping the patient to learn how to relate to others, increased focus and interest, as well as problem-solving skills through the issuing of commands to the addiction therapy dog. People also tend to feel more motivated and positive after working with a dog in therapy.

Equine therapy or horse-assisted therapy has many of the same benefits as canine-assisted therapy. A therapist can also gain insight into the patients interpersonal relationships based on the way that they work with the horse. The instant feedback that the animal gives can also help to improve the patient’s behavior. The therapy also helps a recovering addict to build their trust and become better at reading nonverbal cues.

The combination of pets and recovering addicts have benefits that can stretch to areas where other forms of treatment can’t reach. It is, therefore, a proven method of treatment that can be incorporated into other forms of addiction therapy.


If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.