Pets and the April 8 total solar eclipse

In anticipation of Monday’s total solar eclipse, the big news for pet owners is that the eclipse likely won’t be any news at all to their pets.

By Tony McReynolds

This Monday’s total solar eclipse will be visible along a path that sweeps from northern Mexico, across Texas and the Midwest, and up into New England—a total of 13 states, as well as small parts of Tennessee and Michigan, allowing an estimated 31.6 million people to view it without leaving home.  

People are always being told not to look directly at the sun during an eclipse because it can damage their eyes. But how many pets will be viewing it is anybody’s guess. How will the eclipse affect them? Does it pose any danger?  

Not much, according to Carly Fox, DVM.  

“Unlike people, animals don’t know that there’s an eclipse happening, so they are very unlikely to look directly into the sun,” Fox said. “So mostly your dog or cat will be perfectly fine.”  

Fox, a senior veterinarian in Emergency and Urgent Care at AAHA-accredited Schwarzman Animal Medical Center (AMC) in New York City, told NEWStat that you can tell your clients that they’ll increase the odds of their pets having a good eclipse with a few simple precautions. 

Advice for Pet Owners During the Solar Eclipse  

Keep calm 

Try to stay calm if you have an anxious animal. “Be very conscious of that,” she said. “Pets are sensitive to our emotions and actions, so staying composed is key.”  

She said that people are going to be very excited about the eclipse and that pets are more likely to pick up on that excitement than anything else. 

Maintain their routine 

Stick to their regular schedule to alleviate stress during unfamiliar events. “It’s a good idea to maintain pets’ routine and keep all their meals, walks, and everything else basically on schedule. Do familiar activities just to make them feel like everything is business as usual.” 

Establish an indoor haven 

“Keeping pets inside would be best,” Fox told NEWStat, especially cats, to shield them from crowds and commotion.   

Create a calm environment 

If you’re going be out of the house during the eclipse, Fox said create a calming atmosphere for the pets at home. “Give them a place to rest and feel comfortable; leave lights on, play soothing music, and maintain a sense of normalcy.”  

Check their ID 

Tell clients to ensure their pets are microchipped or wearing collars with ID tags. “Ideally, both,” Fox said.  

“Similar to the things we would recommend during the 4th of July or any sort of similar event: Make sure your pet doesn’t bolt without having any identification.”  

Pets with thunderstorm anxiety may be triggered because of the change in the light outside,  which they might associate with the darkening skies before a weather event. 

“So those animals may become a little bit more anxious and exhibit behavior similar to how they’d behave if a thunderstorm was about to start,” Fox said.  

Bringing pets along?  

In addition to the 31 million people who won’t have to leave home to view the eclipse, as many as 4 million more are expected to travel to see what for many will be a once-in-a-lifetime event. Fox advises leaving them at home. 

Bringing them along on a total eclipse road trip isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but she doesn’t recommend it: “I think it’s best to leave your pet at home. However, some people don’t have the option of doing that, or their pets will just be with them during that time.”   

Experts are anticipating clogged freeways and snarled traffic as people drive across multiple states to get a better view. That’s a long time for a pet to be stuck in a car. 

The good news is, “We know what time the eclipse is going to happen, so make sure to walk your pets beforehand.”  

As showtime approaches, “Pull over, go to a rest stop, and plan beforehand so that during the eclipse, pets are in the car with the air conditioner running. “That’s perfectly fine.”  

But if you’re going to park the car and go look at the eclipse on foot, Fox said don’t leave your animal in the car. “Just take them with you.”  

Should you make your pets wear sunglasses?  

“They don’t need them,” Fox said, because they’re not going to look directly at the sun.” She said animals instinctively avoid staring at the sun, protecting their eyes without the need for specialized glasses. “Putting glasses on them will be more stressful than the actual eclipse.”  

But what about potential eclipse-related eye damage?  

Fox said she’s seen anything like that in pets. “And I’ve been doing this for 15 years.” Not only has she never seen that happen, she hasn’t been able to find any documented reports of eclipse-related eye damage in pets.  

“And I actually looked,” she said.    

On the off-chance someone’s still worried, what signs should they look for?  

“Squinting, any ocular discharge, any change to the appearance of their eye, or any change in the animal’s vision,” Fox said.  

And if a pet owner does notice any of those things? 

“Contact your primary care vet or a veterinary ophthalmologist.”  

What about Fox? Will she watch the eclipse?  

Fox said she’ll be working Monday, but she might step outside to check out the skies, even though New York City isn’t in the path of the total eclipse. “I think I will since it seems like there’s not going be another one for 30 years.”  

But she said all of the patients at AMC will stay safely inside. And her 12-year-old French Bulldog, Hank, will definitely miss the eclipse. “He’ll be home snoozing, which he does for, like, 20 hours a day,” she laughed.  “He won’t know anything unusual is going on.”  


Tony McReynolds is a temporarily petless freelance writer who lives near a dog park in Lafayette, Colorado. He dreams of one day owning a Newfie who isn’t afraid of water (which the last one was, and seriously, how is that even possible?).        

Cover photo credit:  © Anastasia Petrushina E+ via Getty Images Plus 

Disclaimer: The views expressed, and topics discussed, in any NEWStat column or article are intended to inform, educate, or entertain, and do not represent an official position by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) or its Board of Directors. 



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