If you’re like many people who share their homes and hearts with a furry friend, you already know the value it brings to your life in terms of companionship and comfort. However, if you’re struggling with addiction issues, you may not be aware of how that’s affecting your pet — but addiction has an effect on every aspect of your life, and pets are no exception. Here are just a few of the many things about addiction and pets and how your addiction may be keeping you from being a better pet owner:
Domestic Pets Thrive on Stability
Domestic pets thrive on stability and routine, and these things are often compromised when addiction becomes part of the picture. Being fed and exercised on a regular basis is important to them, and if these aspects of basic pet care fall by the wayside, the physical and mental health of the animal are at severe risk.
The most important thing to know about mental health and pets is that the mental health of the pet owner has a direct impact on that of the pet. Domestic animals are remarkably adept at picking up on the moods and emotions of humans — after all, part of their evolutionary survival mechanism was to learn to read human signals.
Domestic Pets Pick up on Stress
If you’re feeling anxious, frightened, depressed or angry, your furry friend is likely to pick up on that. Although these feelings are perfectly normal parts of the emotional spectrum of human beings, potential problems arise when they’re consistently overrepresented during the course of an average day. A recent study shows that canine companions synchronize their stress levels to mirror those of their humans, and stressed pets often develop health issues as well as behavioral problems, such as aggression toward humans and other animals or a generalized fear of them.
Domestic Pets Need a Lot of Attention
Not only do domestic pets need personalized attention in the form of being petted, brushed and bathed, but it’s also important to pay close attention to their immediate environment. Those under the influence of addictive substances often put their pets at risk by not being aware of hazardous conditions in the home environment, such as doors and windows being left open accidentally. Forgetting to feed your pet not only leads to malnutrition, but it also puts your pet at risk of developing low blood sugar and other issues that could negatively affect its overall health.
Domestic Pets Require Significant Financial Upkeep
Those struggling with addiction often face substantial financial difficulties. Besides basic expenses such as food, pets require financial upkeep in the form of regular veterinary care and a safe and secure place to live, and addiction threatens all these in various ways. Neglecting routine veterinary care such as vaccinations and checkups can lead to costly health issues for domestic pets, and it’s also important to keep an emergency fund in the event unexpected veterinary expenses arise due to sudden illnesses or accidents. Many people have a difficult time maintaining these types of backup funds because their all money goes to fuel their addiction.
Domestic Pets Are Helpless Against Abuse and Neglect
Financial instability has the potential to lead to uncertain living situations as well. If you lose your place of residence as a result of substance abuse, it may be difficult to find other housing that allows pets. If it’s necessary to leave your pet with another person while you seek new housing, for instance, you may be putting your pet in danger of being neglected or harmed. In worst-case scenarios, your dog or cat could end up being sold to the highest bidder on the internet while you aren’t around because the person you left it with needs the money for their own drug of choice or simply because they get tired of taking care of the pet.
Domestic Pets May Access Your Drugs or Alcohol
Dogs and cats are curious creatures that like to investigate everything in reach, and this can lead to them becoming very ill or even dying if they ingest substances. It only takes a very small amount of certain types of substances to seriously harm or even kill an animal, and if it doesn’t kill them, they may require expensive veterinary care to survive.
Having a Pet Can Be Good for Your Mental Health
Caring for a pet has been proven to have beneficial effects on mental health. For instance, they help ease feelings of isolation and loneliness, reduce stress and encourage physical exercise if you have a dog that needs to be walked on a regular basis. For these reasons and more, having a pet in your life can help those recovering from addiction. Pets can be a powerful motivator for those seeking to achieve and maintain lifelong sobriety because of the companionship and unconditional love they bring to the picture. However, a common fear about addiction and pets is that it’s generally necessary to re-home the animal prior to scheduling a stay in a treatment facility.
Making Plans for Your Pets While You’re in Treatment
It’s not at all uncommon for an addicted pet owner to put off getting the help they need because they’re worried about what will happen to their pet while they’re in a treatment facility. Fortunately, there are plenty of options for those in this position besides re-homing the pet. Following are several possible options for those in your situation:
- A boarding facility
- Family or friends
- Foster care
- A private pet sitting service
Boarding facilities are often thought of as cold, sterile places where pets are kept in kennels and given minimal attention, but many are actually quite the opposite, proving comfortable surroundings and plenty of personalized attention. Foster care specifically designed for those with your concerns may also be available in your area, and private pet sitters may even be able to stay in your home while you’re gone. Your veterinarian may also be able to provide you advice on local resources. Avoid asking anyone for help with pet care who is struggling with addiction issues of their own.
Be sure to provide whoever ends up caring for your pet while you’re in treatment comprehensive written instructions on caring for your pet as well as ample food and other pet supplies. You may also have to sign a form with your veterinarian allowing the person to seek medical care for your pet on your behalf if necessary.
Don’t hesitate to reach out for help If you’re ready to begin your journey with recovery. Our team of experienced, caring counselors is available by calling (833) 596-3502 24 hours a day, seven days a week.