Keeping Pets Safe During the Solar Eclipse

Post by: Dylan Austin

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A solar eclipse with the sun obscured by the passing moon against a dark sky

At the time of writing, the United States expects a stunning total solar eclipse with a path ranging from Texas to Maine on April 8th, 2024. But if you’re reading this later, it’s still good info to have handy — these events routinely occur across North America. Solar eclipses are fascinating, but they can be unsafe for humans and pets alike without taking proper precautions.

Wondering what to do with pets during a solar eclipse? Let’s take a safe look at everything you need to know.

Pets and Solar Eclipses

A solar eclipse is a celestial event that happens when a new moon and the sun are aligned on the same plane and the moon passes between the Earth and the sun. This can result in a total, partial, or annular eclipse depending on your viewpoint and other factors.

While this article is all about pet safety, we hope you’re taking care to safely view the solar eclipse yourself. Plus, a lot of the tips for safely viewing a solar eclipse similarly apply to our cats and dogs.

Does the solar eclipse affect animals?

Humans tend to find the experience fascinating, but what about pets? With the daytime Earth temporarily covered in darkness, they may be a bit confused, and possibly anxious, about what’s going on. Is it bedtime already? It’s also likely that pets won't notice or be bothered by the eclipse as they usually do not have the same interest in what’s happening in the sky as we do. 

A solar eclipse can also affect animals through anxiety and behavioral changes, skin damage (though this is less likely due to their fur), and in very rare cases, retinal damage. The human viewing parties or eclipse celebrations themselves may cause anxiety. Overall, the best way to minimize your pets’ stress is to keep them calm and confined indoors.

While the reaction depends on the animal, it’s best to ensure they are safe and stress-free during this astronomical event.

Curious about what our pets see? Learn more about the world through our pets’ eyes.

Should pets look at the solar eclipse?

Short answer: no! Like us, pets can experience eye damage if they look directly at the sun during a solar eclipse due to high levels of radiation.

Even when outdoors, pets aren’t usually looking directly at the sun, but that doesn’t mean they won’t by accident or when something else grabs their attention. So, they may end up looking up at the ring of sunlight visible around the edge of the moon.

Remember, our pets pay close attention to how we're reacting to a situation and can mirror our behavior. If you're stressed out, they could be, too. Avoid drawing attention to the eclipse by pointing up or including them in events focused on the experience.

From preventing parasites to protecting them from poison, learn more about how to keep your dog safe outdoors.

How to prepare your pet for the solar eclipse

Thanks to our friends at NASA, solar events are easy to plan for. Prepare your pet for a safe solar eclipse in advance with these tips.

  • Keep your pet inside and away from the possibility of going outside for the duration of the solar eclipse. If they usually have access to a pet door to go potty, make sure they’ve had a chance to do their business and temporarily block that exit.
  • Cover windows, blinds, and doors to help minimize anxiety and noise from eclipse celebrations and sun exposure. They'll appreciate the safe and quiet environment. Have a catio at home? Consider closing off access during this time.
  • Leave them safely restrained at home if you plan to view the eclipse outdoors. Leaving them unattended in a vehicle while observing the eclipse is also not safe.
  • Double-check tags to ensure they have proper identification in the event that eclipse-related noise and excitement results in flight or fleeing behavior.
  • Keep them calm. Stick to their usual feeding, walking, and other normal routine activities as much as possible. Create a safe, quiet environment with distractions like their favorite toys and treats.
  • Monitor their behaviors that may signal anxiety or other unusual activity. You can expect these to be temporary but consult your veterinarian if any concerns arise.

Finally, get everyone on the same page by communicating these precautions with family members, roommates, or pet sitters who may play a role in keeping your pet safe during the solar eclipse.

Do dogs and cats need eclipse glasses?

Your safest bet is to not allow your cat or dog to go outside or look out windows during a solar eclipse. If that is not an option, you can help them avoid eye exposure with protective eyewear specially designed for pets.

As you can probably imagine, human solar eclipse glasses will not reliably fit your pet’s face or adequately shield them from eye damage. Placing new eyewear on your pet may contribute to their anxiety, especially if they are not used to wearing it. There’s also a possibility that they attempt to chew or ingest eclipse glasses.

It may be wise to consult your veterinarian on appropriate eyewear and other steps to take to ensure your pet’s safety during a solar eclipse.

 

What are the signs of retinal burns in pets?

Unless you actively encourage your pets to look at the eclipse, it’s highly unlikely they will look up at it or experience eye damage, for that matter. Review the tips above to proactively and safely prepare your pet for the solar eclipse.

If they do stare directly at the solar eclipse long enough to experience eye damage, you may notice the following symptoms:

  • Squinting, closing one eye, or pawing at their eyes.
  • Redness, inflammation, or cloudiness.
  • Watery eyes or discharge.
  • Bumping into objects, missing toys they’d otherwise catch, or miscalculating a jump.

Expert examination is crucial when it comes to your pet’s safety, including common eye problems for dogs and cats. If you think your pet experienced eye damage due to the solar eclipse or you notice any other behavioral changes, consult your veterinarian as soon as possible.

With summer on the way, now is the perfect time to brush up on other sun safety concerns for cats and dogs.

Are You Eclipse-Ready?

Depending on where you’re viewing from, a solar eclipse can last as little as 10 seconds or up to 7.5 minutes. With the right precautions, you can take advantage of the opportunity to view the next solar eclipse and then get back to doing all the fun, safe activities you love doing with your pet.

Learn more about how pet insurance could help you cover your pet’s eligible veterinary care expenses.

An ASPCA® Pet Health Insurance plan can help you with eligible costs for covered conditions like surgery expenses for accidents and help provide peace of mind that your pet can receive the care they need. Check out our online resources to learn more about your insurance options and get a free quote today. The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.