As the 2017 solar eclipse approaches, more and more warnings are coming out about protecting your eyes. We have to make sure we have the right glasses, with the right certification, or we’ll all be scarred for life. This has caused pet owners to ask me about their pets. Can I walk my dog during an eclipse? Can I let my dog out to potty? Should my outdoor cat be brought inside during the eclipse? There’s a lot of fear mongering on this topic swirling around social media!
Can your pet’s eyes be damaged by being outside during the eclipse?
The short answer is: it’s technically possible, but not in reality. Confused yet? Here’s the deal.
The danger to our eyes that everyone is talking about comes from looking AT the sun during the partial eclipse. The sun is not as bright as normal (because the moon is partially in front of it). Yet, the same damaging rays are coming at you. Problem is, without the brightness aspect, your body doesn’t pick up on the danger. Your defensive/protective mechanisms, like squinting and having your pupils constrict, are there to decrease the amount of light hitting your eye when it’s too bright. When the brightness is diminished, those mechanisms are not triggered. That means you won’t squint (as much?) and your pupils won’t constrict. So all the harmful rays of the sun have full access to your eyes and can pour right in.
The risk is to the retina, the back of the eye. This structure is what processes light and sends the light to the brain to form an image. These cells of the retina are highly sensitive, and the damaging wavelengths of light allowed to access the retina can cause cell death. If cells on your retina die, they are not replaced, and your vision will be adversely affected.
Remember, this potential damage is a result of looking AT the sun. Some people even go as far as to say “staring” at the sun.
So what about our pets? Yes, they do have retinas, and we do not want those retinas to get damaged. But how many pets are going to be looking up directly at the sun? I guess if your cat is going through an astronomy phase, or if the neighbor dog double dared your dog to do it, it would be possible. (we always knew that neighbor dog was a bad influence.)
Thing is, our animals won’t know it’s an eclipse. Sure, they’ll know something weird is going on, and it might even be a little scary, but they won’t have the curiosity and fascination with the sun that we humans do. In short, they most likely won’t be staring at the sun. If they were, I’d be the first to be selling eclipse glasses for pets. (Actually, I’m kinda kicking myself now for not having made millions doing just that!)
Can I guarantee your pet won’t happen to glance up in the direction of the sun? Of course not! If you’re super worried, it’s best to play it safe and keep your pets inside if you cannot be supervising them. But simply walking around outside to potty, sniffing the tree, or chewing on a stick will not damage your pet’s eyes. If your dog has to poop, let him outside! Feel free to live your life during the eclipse – but do get glasses for yourself, as we humans can’t resist looking!