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Safety first: solar eclipse tips for pet owners

While the spectacle of a solar eclipse is undeniably captivating for humans, what about our four-legged friends?

As the much-anticipated total solar eclipse approaches on Monday, April 8, 2024, spanning across North America, pet owners may find themselves wondering how this celestial event might affect their furry companions.

While the spectacle of a solar eclipse is undeniably captivating for humans, what about our four-legged friends? Should we be concerned about their safety and well-being during this extraordinary occurrence?

Here's how to keep your pets safe, according to the American Kennel Club.

Will the Eclipse Hurt My Dog?

One of the primary concerns for pet owners is whether the eclipse poses any direct harm to their dogs. According to Dr. Jerry Klein, the chief veterinary officer for the American Kennel Club (AKC), dogs typically don't gaze up at the sun, thus minimizing the risk of eye damage during the eclipse. As Dr. Klein notes, our canine companions seem to possess the wisdom to avoid such a perilous act, quipping, "That’s why they’re smarter than people."

Dr. Klein reassures pet owners that since dogs usually only look upward when something catches their attention, they're unlikely to stare directly at the sun during an eclipse. Therefore, there's no need to fret about finding protective eyewear for your furry friend.

Will the Eclipse Stress Out My Dog?

While some animals, such as livestock and wildlife, may exhibit reactions to the sudden changes in daylight during an eclipse, dogs are less likely to be significantly affected. Dr. Klein suggests that any stress or anxiety your dog may experience during the event is typically short-lived, lasting only for the duration of the eclipse itself.

Although scientific studies on the effects of eclipses on dogs are limited, historical observations suggest that any anxiety displayed by dogs during eclipses may be influenced by external factors or their guardians' behaviour. As documented in a study from 1932, dogs may react similarly to how they would during a thunderstorm, responding to changes in atmospheric conditions or the behaviour of those around them.

What To Do If the Eclipse Stresses Out Your Dog

If you notice signs of distress or anxiety in your dog during the eclipse, such as hiding, whining, or excessive barking, there are steps you can take to help alleviate their discomfort. Creating a calm environment, playing soothing music, or engaging in positive reinforcement activities with treats can all help reassure your furry companion.

However, it's essential to remember that the eclipse is a temporary event, and any stress experienced by your dog is likely to dissipate once it passes.

Keep an Eye Out on Other Animals, Too

While dogs may not be greatly affected by the eclipse, it's essential to remain vigilant of other animals' behaviours, particularly livestock and wildlife. Unusual reactions in these animals could indicate potential hazards, such as swarming bees or startled livestock.

What is More Likely to Hurt or Stress Out Your Dog During an Eclipse

Ironically, the greatest risks to your dog's well-being during an eclipse may come from human-related activities surrounding the event. Dr. Klein highlights potential stressors such as travelling, crowds, loud noises from festivities, or even accidental ingestion of eclipse glasses.

With millions of people expected to flock to areas along the eclipse's path, pet owners should take precautions to ensure their dog's safety and comfort amidst the excitement.

Don’t Force Your Dog to Experience the Eclipse

Lastly, while witnessing a solar eclipse can be a mesmerizing experience for humans, it's important to recognize that your dog may not share the same fascination. Dr. Klein advises against attempting to compel your dog to view the eclipse, as it goes against their natural inclination to avoid looking upward. Additionally, he warns against the misuse of protective eyewear for pets, emphasizing the importance of keeping such items out of reach to prevent accidents.

While the upcoming solar eclipse may spark curiosity and excitement among pet owners, rest assured that your dog is unlikely to come to harm from the event itself. By being mindful of your dog's behaviour and taking appropriate measures to mitigate stress, you can ensure that both you and your furry companion safely enjoy this rare celestial phenomenon.

Credits: Information sourced from the American Kennel Club.