Can we talk about a controversial topic?
No, not politics. That would be easy in comparison.
We need to talk about pets and the solar eclipse. Do dogs need to wear solar eclipse glasses? Should they just stay inside so they don’t damage their eyes?
Facebook is full of warnings about dogs who will need seeing eye dogs after Monday. Warnings have been posted on pages run by supposed pet experts and magazines.
Stop it. Just stop it. The odds of your dog’s eyes being damaged during a solar eclipse are nil.
Answer a few questions to prove it to yourself.
What makes solar eclipse day more dangerous?
Why is it more dangerous to look at the sun during a solar eclipse? Why is the sun so much more dangerous that day?
The answer? It isn’t.
The sun is no riskier to look at during an eclipse than any other day. There is no magical physical change in the sun. The only thing that happens is that the moon blocks our view of the sun. That’s it.
Don’t believe me that the risk is no higher? Go outside right now and stare at the sun for the next five minutes. Go ahead. We will wait.
The danger is not looking at an eclipse. The danger is looking directly at the sun, a risk that exists every day.
So why the warnings for humans to wear solar eclipse glasses?
Because we humans are the only animals with the “intellect” to want to stare at the sun. Don’t we sound smart?
Many people will want to watch the solar eclipse. I include myself since we are in the path of totality. We will gather in crowds and stare directly at a giant, gaseous star as our moon crosses in front of it. And because it is so bright, we need to be wearing eye protection to prevent damage to our eyes.
The difference for us is that on any other day, we simply don’t stare at the sun. If we did, we would need these extra dark glasses on those days as well.
But won’t my dog’s eyes be damaged if he stares at the sun?
Yes, of course. Notice how carefully the warnings on social media are worded. “Any dogs who look at the sun can suffer the same retinal damage as humans.”
That is absolutely correct.
Except what dog is going to stare at the sun? Seriously, think about it.
Only two possibilities exist.
First, your dog routinely sits around in the yard and stares at the sun. If that is true, your dog is at risk already and the eclipse is nothing special.
Second, you plan to force your dog to watch the eclipse. Don’t.
Voilà. The risk has been removed.
But I read the warning on a dog website or Facebook Page.
You know how you train a dog by offering treats?
Sit and you get a treat!
Come and you get a treat!
Don’t destroy the furniture and you get a treat. Ok, fine, that last one is for those of us who share our lives with Siberian Huskies.
Well, guess what? That dog website or Facebook page just waved a treat right in front of your face and you clicked and shared right on command. Good boy!
What about the wild animals?
Still not convinced? Ok, last test. Think about all of the wild animals who will not be wearing eye protection. Do you expect a sudden outbreak in animal blindness next Tuesday?
Mama deer and baby grazing in a quiet meadow. Mama raises her head and sniffs, sensing a predator approaching. A twig snaps as a mountain lion slinks out of the shadows. Mama nudges the baby deer and together they bound across the meadow. Bounce. Leap. Glide.
SMACK. Mama deer crashes into a tree. Baby deer collides into her back legs. Frantic, blind, they scramble to avoid the predator.
The mountain lion, sensing her advantage, races across the field, her incredible acceleration as her lithe body blurs in motion. And she trips over a turtle she didn’t see crossing the field, somersaults, and crashes into a dark heap.
The turtle, shaken by the encounter, raises its head, but can’t see what hit it. Scared, it retreats into its shell – the same darkness as before, but familiar.
Scared by the noise, a bird spreads its mighty wings and lifts off in flight from a branch. Flap. Flap. CRASH.
A squirrel scampers away from the commotion and into the street. Your car is approaching and it stops, hesitates, unsure of which way to go.
Ok, wait, that last one may not help my explanation.
But we know that Tuesday will not see a sudden epidemic of animal blindness. And so if wild animals aren’t at risk, neither is your dog.
So how will my dog react to the eclipse?
Animals may react differently during an eclipse. As darkness grows, animals will prepare to bed down for the night. Your dog will likely think its evening with bedtime approaching.
At that point, they will not be thinking of looking at the sun. Sensing night is approaching, they will only be thinking one thing:
Where the hell is dinner?
A few minutes later, as light returns, they still will not stare at the sun. Rather, they will protest:
Breakfast? Where is breakfast? I have now missed two meals!
So, relax. Your dog is not at risk for sudden solar eclipse caused blindness.
A canine revolution for missed meals, however, is a possibility. Where are the warnings for that?