The day has arrived! The United States, (with the exception of a very cloudy Hawaiian day in 1991) has not seen a total solar eclipse since 1979. The estimation is that anywhere from 2 million to 7.5 million people will be viewing the eclipse from the path of totality today. The humans are ready, but what about our dogs?
With a total solar eclipse being a rare natural happening, the research behind how animals are affected by the sudden and temporary change from day to night is not well studied as of yet. For that, researchers at the California Academy of Sciences are encouraging citizens and pet owners to report observed animal behavior during the eclipse through the app, iNaturalist.
What has been deduced from prior years and with a little help from the knowledge we do have on animal behavior is that animals are most certainly affected. As Douglas Duncan, Director of the University of Colorado’s Fiske Planetarium said, “The smarter animals freak out” regarding marine life as he had observed dolphins and whales rising to the surface in collective groups during a previous eclipse. Spiders disassemble their webs as they would in preparation for dawn, bats come out, nocturnal animals awaken and begin moving around, frogs and crickets begin to chirp, and even songbirds go quiet.
As for our four-legged domesticated companions in the canine category, much of how they respond to even natural events can depend on their humans that they have become so dependent on. Some dogs are naturally more sensitive to pressure changes and weather changes, (hence thunderstorm anxieties), which is exacerbated in dogs that are prone to separation anxiety and fear-related behaviors. Chances are, the actual event itself will not negatively affect your furry best friend, however, here are a couple of tips to help keep them safe:
- Protect their eyes if they are outside during the event with you. It is very unlikely for your dog to look at the sun during a solar eclipse as they do not naturally sun gaze, nor do they have a cognitive reason during the eclipse to pay attention to the sun as humans do. If by chance they do happen to stare up at the sun, yes, it can harm their eyes and can cause eclipse blindness as can happen in people. The safest bet is to share some ISO solar shades with your dog if you intend to have them outdoors with you.
- Leave your dog inside, at home, in safe place if you are traveling. There are literally millions of people gathering in the path of totality today. There is an increased risk for traffic accidents which could lead to the loss of a pet. There will also be unusual crowds of excited people which can cause fear and discomfort leading to bolting, biting, and other simple fear-related behaviors in the event your canine compadre feels trapped or overwhelmed. Additionally, you and your dog may be exposed to nocturnal animals that you would normally not be exposed to with the confusion of night and day during the eclipse. Skip the stress. Leave Skippy at home.
Wherever you may be viewing the eclipse from today, have a safe and awe-inspiring experience!