Can Cell Phones Cause Pet Depression?

A sad dog laying with his toy

Has your dog suddenly stopped playing with his beloved stuffed monkey? Has your normally hungry-all-the-time kitty been turning her nose up at her meals? If you’ve noticed a change in your pet’s normal behavior or patterns (and you’ve ruled out underlying medical reasons), you may have a case of pet depression on your hands.

There are many possible causes of pet depression, but a new study has revealed that the little supercomputer in your pocket (or in your hand, more likely) may be the cause. 

Please Elaborate!

It sounds crazy right? How could your smartphone possibly cause your pet to feel anything, much less depression? As it turns out, smartphones and other electronic gadgets have an uncanny ability to capture, and keep, our attention. Attention that might normally be paid to our pets.

The study, based out of the United Kingdom, was focused on the positive mental health benefits associated with adopting a pet. The researchers also discovered that pets, dogs in particular, can develop symptoms of depression when their owners ignore them.

Pet Depression

Major life events, such as a move, a child leaving home for college, or the death of an owner or other household pet can impact our pets more than we realize. Being ignored, such as when an owner is constantly on a device, is another fast-track to pet depression.

A depressed pet may exhibit any of the following symptoms:

  • Lethargy 
  • Loss of interest in toys, people, or activities
  • Loss of appetite
  • Other changes to eating/drinking/sleeping behaviors
  • Destructive behavior
  • Aggression

Of course, each of the signs of depression can also be caused by an underlying health condition, so it’s important to have your pet evaluated right away.

Waking Up

Finding out that a seemingly innocent act like staring into a tiny screen for four hours each day (the amount of time the average adult spends using a smartphone) could have such a devastating impact on your furry friends is usually enough to get the attention of most pet owners. After all, we love our pets and would never purposely do anything to make them sad!

That being said, breaking a smartphone or other gadget addiction is no easy feat. But because it’s so important for the mental well being of pets and other loved ones, here are some tips to get you started:

  •  Make your pet your first priority when you wake up each day, rather than your phone. Make a commitment to interact with, feed, and exercise your pet before you allow yourself your first peek at the phone.
  • Do the same thing each time you enter the home after work or running errands. Show your pet how happy you are to see them, and reward them with affection and play for waiting patiently for you to get home.
  • Seek out times during the day when you tend to automatically reach for your phone, and replace that habit with something else. For example, if you regularly scroll social media while in line at the grocery store, try glancing at the magazine headlines or mentally adding up the contents of your cart instead. 

Breaking any habit is hard, but when a pet is at stake it may be all the motivation we need. Please don’t forget that your team at Rocklin Ranch Veterinary Hospital is here to help! Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you are concerned about pet depression, or have any other questions about your pet.