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  • For many with chronic or uncontrolled substance abuse, the unconditional love and emotional support that comes from the presence of a beloved pet can be a lifeline, one that you might be reluctant to let go of when considering a rehab program.

    But, while it’s true that most drug and alcohol treatment centers do not allow pets on-site, an increasing number of rehab centers have taken a more positive stance towards pets in recent years. 

    Allowing patients to bring their furry friends to treatment can potentially lead to significant health benefits.

    How To Find Out If A Rehab Facility Is Pet-Friendly 

    Because policies vary widely from treatment facility to treatment facility, your best option for finding a pet-friendly rehab program is to check their webpage or call an admissions counselor and ask directly.

    Even if pets are allowed, there may be limitations on what kinds of pets are permitted (dogs, cats, weight or breed exceptions, etc.) or where they’re allowed one campus (a separate kennel area or pet-friendly private suites).

    Benefits Of Pets In Addiction Treatment Programs

    Having a pet to help you through the recovery process can be tremendously helpful in a variety of different ways.

    Improved Attitude

    Studies have shown that simply having an animal nearby can help the attitudes and mental health of those nearby. The resulting happiness, pleasure, and joy can lead to more positive outlooks even in the midst of the rehabilitation process.

    The sense of responsibility that comes from taking care of an animal and meeting their needs is also helpful for building self-esteem. Having an animal around can help shift your focus away from any insecurities to something external and unconditionally loving.


    Petting a loving animal can trigger powerful physical and mental responses in pet owners and others. This ranges from increased serotonin activity and release of oxytocin to lower blood pressure, autonomic nervous system activity, and improved pain management.

    In other words, attention from affectionate pets helps human beings deal with fear, pain, and panic, allowing us to relax more efficiently in uncertain or high-anxiety situations.

    As you can imagine, these effects can be extremely helpful during detox and throughout the addiction recovery process.

    Habit Building

    Recovery from a substance use disorder is about more than simply breaking harmful patterns of behavior. You also need to build new, helpful, and positive behaviors in their place. 

    Pets can help with this process by encouraging daily activities like: 

    • feeding
    • going on walks
    • grooming
    • snuggling

    Social Connection

    Those entering recovery are often uncertain, ashamed, withdrawn, and focused inward. 

    But bringing a pet, especially a dog, to rehab can prompt social interaction as others come to see, pet it, or strike up a conversation. This can help with introductions or breaking the ice to jumpstart social interaction.

    Peace Of Mind

    Many rehab programs are thirty days in length, a long time to worry about a four-legged best friend, especially if you don’t have immediate family members who can take care of your beloved pet.

    Many participants in pet-friendly rehab centers are extremely grateful that they don’t have to worry about how their pet is doing in boarding, and that they don’t have to pay for thirty days of boarding either.

    Disadvantages To Pet-Friendly Drug Rehab

    While pet-friendly inpatient rehab programs are becoming more common each year, many facilities explicitly disallow animals on-site for a number of potential reasons, including:

    • allergies, as pet fur and dander can bother many staff and participants
    • distraction, as misbehaving pets could potentially get in the way of therapy or distract other participants
    • safety, as some dogs respond aggressively to a change in environment or other dogs
    • space or staff, as many treatment centers are just too small or don’t have the extra hands available to properly manage animals for an extended period of time
    • damage, as even the best pets, make messes sometimes and many treatment centers don’t want to deal with the aftermath

    If you or a loved one struggles with a substance use disorder (addiction) related to alcohol, prescription drugs, or illicit drugs, contact Ark Behavioral Health today. 

    Our treatment centers host a variety of personalized programs to help you overcome drug or alcohol addiction and live a healthier life.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2023 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - About Pets & People
    National Institutes of Health (NIH) News in Health - The Power of Pets
    Rikki Schwab, Walden University - Success and Failure of Drug Rehabilitation: Pets Accompanying Clients to Treatment

    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on June 24, 2022
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