I’ve already seen some chatter on social media about pet safety during the Great American Eclipse of 2017, and some of it has been quite off-base. So let’s talk about safety!
First, unless you’ve been living in a cave (perhaps a reasonable choice, given the recent socio-political climate), you’ve probably heard about the eclipse predicted for August 21, 2017. This will be a total solar eclipse, particularly notable for many Americans for its convenient path of travel right through the center of the continental US. I myself will be traveling to observe totality.
There are a lot of myths about eclipses and safety. The first is that an eclipse is dangerous for pregnant women and children, which is wholly untrue. I haven’t been able to track down the origin of this myth (your suggestions welcome!) so I can’t figure out if it’s from a misunderstanding of a legitimate warning or just plain hogwash, but at any rate, don’t worry about it. It’s fine to go outside during the eclipse, whatever your life stage or condition.
What isn’t a myth: Don’t look directly at the sun. This can cause temporary or permanent blindness, and it’s most likely you won’t know you’ve damaged your eyes until the next day or so, when it’s too late to do anything about it. Observations of the eclipse should be done through certified eclipse glasses only or via indirect means, such as pinhole cameras. (Note that the market has been flooded with counterfeit eclipse glasses due to demand, so be careful about where you buy.)
And that caution about protective eyewear is what leads some people to worry about their pets’ safety. “I don’t think I can keep eclipse glasses securely on my dog, so I’m not going to let her outside that day,” reported one concerned owner.
No worries! The sun is no more intense or dangerous on the day of an eclipse than normal — if anything, we get a brief break from the sun’s radiation! The difference is that curious humans are more likely to look at the sun during an eclipse than on a normal day, and that must be done with protection.
Our dogs, cats, and other critters haven’t been paying attention to the social media buzz and are not particularly likely to look at the sun, however. Unless your dog is starring in an educational children’s book, he’s not going to stare directly into the sun, and thus he’s at no more risk of damage than any other day. He has no need of eclipse glasses or other protective gear. (Actually, since eclipse glasses block all normal vision, it’s probably much more dangerous to try to use them on a pet.)
You might well see some unusual animal activity, in both domestic animals and wildlife, as the sudden twilight during totality may prompt some animals to go into evening routines. But this is normal behavior based on environmental cues (quantity and quality of light), and they will revert to normal behavior in a few minutes when the sunlight returns to normal.
So enjoy the eclipse (with safety precautions) for yourself, but don’t worry about your pets’ vision. They’ll be fine as long as they’re not staring directly into the sun.