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How does the solar eclipse affect animals? Veterinarians share insights and pet safety tips

Farm animals confused during eclipse
Farm animals were scared and confused during total solar eclipse 01:30

With around 180 million people living in or near the 2024 solar eclipse path of totality, many pet owners have been wondering how the eclipse may impact animal behaviors and how their pets might react. 

Veterinarians said they've been fielding questions from some concerned pet owners about the eclipse's impact on animals. Ultimately, there isn't a clear answer for pet owners because eclipses happen so infrequently. Researchers did plan to watch animal reactions during the April 8 eclipse to learn more about how it affects animals.

"There's not a lot of scientific research done on this topic of animals and eclipses mostly because they don't come often," said American Kennel Club Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Jerry Klein. "And a lot of it's just been anecdotal reports and just volunteering information."

How does a solar eclipse affect animals?

Though there isn't a lot of information out there, veterinarians and animal researchers do have some idea how the eclipse may impact dogs, cats and more. 

"Most animals will be overall unaffected by the eclipse, but pet owners may notice brief periods of confusion, and dogs and cats may exhibit fear and confusion," said Dr. Katie Krebs, a veterinarian and professor at University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine. 

Pets may hide, howl, pace or pant during the eclipse, Krebs said. As the sky darkens, some pets may start their nighttime routine early. 

The average indoor dog or cat is likely not going to be affected by the eclipse, said Dr. Rebecca Greenstein, veterinary expert with pet care company Rover. 

"So owners should take heart and take comfort in knowing that," Greenstein said.

Why do solar eclipses affect animals?

It's not so much the eclipse that affects pets, but the behavior of people, Klein said. 

"They'll take their cues from us," Klein said. "So if they're kept indoors and we don't try to force them into a situation that's peculiar, there should be minimal to none as far as reactions."

Many people will gather at eclipse parties and those large gatherings can impact pets if they're brought along, Klein said. The travel, noise and crowds can be stressful for animals. 

Some animals that depend more on the light-dark cycle, like birds, may be more affected because the sky will darken during the eclipse, Krebs said. 

"Things like fireworks and thunderstorms are probably a much more significant phenomenon than an eclipse that's lasting only a few minutes," Greenstein said.

Can animals look at the eclipse without going blind?

Animals generally know not to stare at the sun themselves — they've learned that doing so can temporarily blind them, leaving them vulnerable. 

"Dogs know that if something hurts them, they probably shouldn't do it," said Klein. "So left to their own devices, dogs are probably not going to stare at the sun."

Pets may look up if they see the people around them are preoccupied with looking up at the sky, vets said. 

"Dogs follow your cues, so if you're preoccupied with looking up, your dog is looking to your cues to figure out how to behave," Greenstein said. "So this may be a time to either not bring them along, or if you are, to reassure them with their favorite toy or treat and just keep them preoccupied with what's going on at ground level."

A dog wears eclipse glasses in New York City as people gather to see the solar eclipse
A dog wears eclipse glasses in New York City as people gather to see the solar eclipse on April 8, 2024. Fatih Aktas/Anadolu via Getty Images

Pet owners do not need special eclipse glasses for their dog or cat, Krebs said. 

If you have a pair of eclipse glasses around, be careful not to leave them unattended with your pet, who may chew on or eat them, Klein said. Eclipse glasses that have scratches or punctures should not be used. 

Should you keep your pets inside or outside during the solar eclipse?

Veterinarians agree that it's likely best to keep pets inside during the eclipse, especially if they're stressed by crowds or events like storms or fireworks. 

"If possible, keep them indoors in a comfortable environment where they will feel more secure because the feeling of this is probably the most important thing," Klein said.

Owners planning to go to eclipse events should be respectful of their pet's boundaries. 

"Not all animals do well with large crowds or with you being distracted with other things, so leaving them at home or calling a trusted pet sitter are probably the best bet," Greenstein said.

At home, owners can try distracting a pet with a favorite toy, vets said. Pets who are often anxious may benefit from anti-anxiety medication during the eclipse, but owners should check with their veterinarian for specifics before giving their dog or cat any medication, Krebs said. 

"If you plan to stay home during the eclipse, your pet may seek out extra attention or comfort, so providing them with extra comfort and reassurance may help," Krebs said.

More pet safety tips to keep in mind

If you've decided to take your dog to an eclipse event, it's important to make sure they're microchipped with current info in case they get stressed and run away, Klein said. While there, make sure they're well controlled on a leash.

"By and large, we're not thinking this represents any major danger, but definitely pet owners should use their judgment," Greenstein said.

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