Can a Pet Owner's Addiction Create Stress for His Pet?

Posted by Patrick Bailey on Nov 5, 2020 1:12:18 PM

No man is an island. Your words and actions have an influence on others, in either a positive or negative way. When you have an addiction, your actions will affect your family, friends, colleagues, and even your pets. Unfortunately, your furry friends aren’t immune to the negative effects of addiction on your life.


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Addictions can change your emotions, personality, and behavior. These changes will not go unnoticed by your pet. Dogs, in particular, are quite susceptible to mood swings and personality disorders in their owners. A substance abuse problem can cause anxiety, stress, anger, confusion, or depression. Dogs have a way of picking up on these feelings and reacting to them in like fashion. If you’re stressed, your pet may show signs of stress. If you’re fearful, your pet may become fearful as well. In addition to being affected by your emotions, pets can feel the negative repercussions of your addiction through abuse and neglect.

How Addictions Affect Your Pet

When you’re addicted to alcohol or drugs, it’s easy to overlook your responsibilities to your pet. This leaves your pet in a precarious state as he obviously needs your attention and care. Addiction can affect pets in many ways:

  • It can cause them mental distress
  • They can suffer from neglect
  • They can be subjected to abusive behavior

The mental effects of addiction are often more profound on dogs than other types of pets due to the closer relationship people have with their canine companions.

In a non-addictive state, bonding with your pup can be extremely rewarding as you both benefit from mutual love and friendship. Your pup takes his cues from you when it comes to the way he perceives his surroundings. If you are happy, calm, and confident, he will feel safe and secure in his environment. If you’re nervous or fearful, your pup may feel threatened by his environment, which could lead to anxiety and aggression. According to a study by the Center for Canine Behavior, a dog’s “behavior problems,” i.e. fear, anxiety, aggression, can sometimes be triggered by their owner’s mental state. Here’s how your addiction can lead to mental distress in your pet.

Addiction and Mental Distress

Studies show that dogs can detect how you’re feeling and your feelings can affect their mental state of health. If you’re angry or upset, your pup can tell by your body language, tone of voice, and even facial expression. Your pup can also detect chemical changes in your body such as sweating when you’re anxious or afraid. He may not know what’s ailing you, but he can certainly tell that something’s wrong and you are not your “normal” self. By correlating the tone of your voice and body language to your actions, your pup could become wary or fearful of how you are going to react.

Alcohol and drug use causes changes in your personality and demeanor. If your pup has been around long enough, he can sense these changes. Over time, he may start to mirror the stress, tension, and fear you’re feeling in your addictive mental state. If you suffer from high stress levels, your pup will tend to have high stress levels as well. Your pup may bark or whine incessantly when you get drunk or high due to sensing the changes in your physical and psychological state. He may begin to associate the smell of drugs or alcohol with erratic feelings or behavior, causing him to become fearful or agitated when you drink or take drugs.

Addiction Can Lead to Pet Neglect

Substance abuse problems can lead to neglect of your pet. It’s difficult to keep up with your pet’s care if you’re constantly drunk or high on drugs. You may forget to feed your pet for days or fill his water bowl or even take him out for walks.

When you have an addiction, your only concern is yourself and getting the substances you need to avoid withdrawal symptoms. You may abandon your pet for days in pursuit of drugs, leaving him to suffer from hunger and thirst, and loneliness due to neglect. Your house will suffer from the messes your pet will make due to being stuck inside. You may even decide it’s not worth having a pet and turn him out to fend for himself. Imagine the stress and anxiety your pet will go through by being abandoned by the person he loves.

Addiction Can Lead to Pet Abuse

Addiction can lead to abuse of your pet as you’re not 100% in control of your faculties. You may strike your pet while in a drunken stupor or after taking drugs. You may not even remember being mean or abusive to your pet. The good news is that you don’t have to stay in your addictive state. You can overcome substance abuse problems through addiction treatment. Your pet will be forever thankful that you took steps toward recovery.

Ways to Reduce Stress in Your Pet during Recovery

Addiction changes everything in your life – your personality, emotions, behaviors, and routines. These changes can derail your pet. Your pet won’t understand what you're going through or what he can do to get his old master back. The following steps can help your pet feel more secure as you undergo treatment to regain control of your life:

  • Take care of your health. Prioritize your health during treatment to help expedite your recovery. Good health will make it easier to care for your pet.
  • Maintain a routine with your pet. Pets feel more secure with a routine. Set regular times for meals, exercise, and play. If necessary, ask family or friends to help you keep this schedule while you’re undergoing treatment.
  • Continue training sessions for your pup. Your pup can benefit from the mental and physical stimulation that training sessions provide. Make sure your pup gets the positive reinforcement he needs during this time.
  • Don’t hold back on love and attention. Spend personal time with your pet, re-establishing your bond. Love and attention can help your pet overcome feelings of stress and anxiety and make him feel part of the family once again.

Your pet is worth fighting for. By doing your part to overcome addiction, you can win back his love and trust.

 

Author Bio: Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them. 

Photo by Brad Halcrow on Unsplash

Topics: pets, mental health, addiction

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