Will your pets be safe during the solar eclipse? Here's what the experts say.

Will your pets be safe during the solar eclipse? Here's what the experts say.

Editor's note: An updated cloud forecast for the April 2024 total solar eclipse is in. To follow the latest news on the solar eclipse, read USA TODAY's live updates on Monday, April 8.

An eclipse itself isn't dangerous for domestic animals such as dogs and cats, but experts say it's probably best to not bring pets to experience the April 2024 total solar eclipse.

Experts' biggest concern is not what’s happening in the sky but on the ground as crowds of excited and anxious people gather, said Dr. Rena Carlson, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

“Rather than the effects of the eclipse, I would be more worried about the excitement and all of the people,” she said.

Dogs especially will take their cues from their owners rather than the celestial event.

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Dr. Jerry Klein, chief veterinarian of the American Kennel Club, said dogs that are sensitive, that have anxiety or are strongly affected by storms are likely to pick up on the emotions of people gathering to watch the eclipse

That’s especially true for pet owners who might be traveling a long distance to see the eclipse.

“They're going to react more to our reactions, our excitement and our anxiety than the actual eclipse,” said Carlson.

What to do if you have to bring your dog to see the April 2024 total solar eclipse

If you must take your dog with you to an eclipse viewing event, make sure they are your primary concern.

“Make sure that they’re not stressed and that you give them a time out if they need it,” Klein said.

“If you have any concerns about how your dog might react you should leave them indoors. That’s the easiest solution,” he reiterated.

For those who won’t or can’t leave their dogs at home, he gave this advice:

“Make sure they have plenty of fresh water, that they’re not overly crowded, that they’re kept on a leash and that they have a way to be recognized if they bolt off and get lost,” he said.

A golden retriever looks out of a house's window in March 2024.
A golden retriever looks out of a house's window in March 2024.

Carlson cautioned that pet owners need to plan for the possible aftermath of any eclipse-viewing excursions they take their pets on.

In 2017 there were massive traffic jams after that year's solar eclipse ended as thousands of people all tried to leave often narrow country roads at once. Carlson was working in Idaho at the time. Some of the best viewing in the nation was a little bit north of her clinic.

"What would have typically been a two-hour drive took some people seven and eight hours to make," she said. “You need to make sure you have extra water for them and that you can get them out to eliminate,” she said.

Some dogs bark, some don't. Cats don't care.

There's not a great deal of research on how pets respond to eclipses. But what there is seems to indicate they're not strongly affected. The most recent study was released earlier this month and was conducted during a partial eclipse on October 14, 2023. It reported behaviors in more than 200 animals, mostly dogs.

“About half of the people wrote that their dogs started barking or howling during the eclipse but half of the people said their dogs stopped barking and howling,” said Adam Hartstone-Rose, the professor of biological sciences at North Carolina State University who conducted the research and who studies animal behavior during eclipses.

The responses could simply be based on a given dog's personality, he said.

People who were farther away from the main path of the 2023 eclipse, in areas where the effect would have only been a short period of dimness, didn’t see any noticeable changes in their animals.

“The closer you were to full darkness, the greater the reaction,” he said. “But the reactions went in both directions.”

There were no reports of dogs running or scrambling around and cat owners didn't note any responses at all.

“The cats couldn’t be bothered, at least enough to give us data," Hartstone-Rose said. Then he added, "But maybe they were thinking deeply about it."

That study's sample size is too small to draw definitive conclusions from so he’s hoping to get thousands of pet owners to send in observations on April 8 as part of his Solar Eclipse Safari citizen science project.

“We need much more data,” he said.

You don't have to worry about pets' eyes in an eclipse

There’s no need to worry about your pets’ eyes during an eclipse, Carlson said.

Dogs typically only look up at an owner or if there's a treat. “They have no instinct to look up at the eclipse," she said.

As excited as you might be about seeing the eclipse, the experts were unanimous – don’t make your dog look at it.

“They have an aversion to bright light. They will tend to not look at it unless we force them to do something that’s not beneficial to them naturally,” said Klein, who practiced as a small animal emergency veterinarian for over 35 years.

There's no need for eclipse glasses because there’s no fear of dogs harming themselves by looking at the blocked sun, he added.

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“I’ve never had any emergencies because of problems or lesions to eyes because of dogs staring at eclipses, he said. “Animals are too sensible to do something they can feel isn’t good for them.”

Any type of eye covering is likely to simply bother them, said Carlson. “Glasses, or any kind of protection for their eyes, is going to be more annoying and stressful than just letting them be with their owners."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Pets during the solar eclipse: What to know, how to keep your pets safe