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Can your dog look up at the "ring of fire" eclipse? What to know

On Saturday, October 14, a “ring of fire” eclipse will pass through the North, Central and South American skies.

While it might be tempting to watch this spectacle with your own eyes, most of us have heard the warnings that it is dangerous to look directly at the sun (and thus avoid this temptation.) But what about our pets?

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and Earth. There are different types of solar eclipse, depending on how close the moon is to our planet. The moon’s orbit is not perfectly circular, so, at certain times of the month, it is closer to Earth than at others.

When the moon is at its closest point, it is called perigee. If a full moon passes in front of the sun during perigee, we get what is known as a total solar eclipse. But,when the moon is at its furthest point—known as apogee—it does not appear large enough in the sky to fully block out the sun. Therefore, we get what is known as a ring of fire eclipse, or an annular eclipse, where a ring of sunlight can be seen peeping around the moon’s shadow.

Numerous studies have shown that many animals change their behavior during these celestial events. Some animals appear to get anxious; others begin to engage in established nighttime behaviors; and a few—namely chimpanzees—turn their heads towards the sky. But research into how our dogs might behave is fairly limited.

“Livestock and wildlife may be more sensitive to changes in light due to a solar eclipse [but] a solar eclipse should not pose any particular risks to dogs,” Dr. Jerry Klein, chief veterinarian at the American Kennel Club, told Newsweek. “They know enough not to [look].”

As the event unravels slowly, dogs are unlikely to feel the need to look up at the sky. However, if they do happen to stare up at the sun, it can indeed injure their eyes.

Solar eclipses may also make your pets anxious, although the actual event usually lasts only a few minutes. “Solar eclipses should be much less a reason to cause anxiety to your dog than a thunderstorm or Fourth of July fireworks,” Klein said.

Perhaps some of this anxiety may be induced by changes in the behavior of their owners and other people. For example, during an eclipse, many people often flock to the same viewing areas, forming large crowds. This is likely to be more anxiety-inducing to your dogs than the eclipse itself.

“It is important to remember dogs will often behave in response to their owner’s behavior,” Klein said. “Keeping a consistent routine and calming environment such as soft music is important to a dog’s mental welfare.

“Pets should never be kept unsupervised outdoors for any extended period. This would be especially true if there are stressful events occurring,” Klein added.

Overall, a solar eclipse, be it total or annular, is unlikely to cause serious harm to your dog, unless you allow it to stare directly at the sun for an extensive period. To be safe, you might want to keep it indoors until the event has passed.

The ‘ring of fire’ solar eclipse will begin in Oregon at 9:13 a.m. PDT, and end in Texas at 12:03 p.m. CDT.

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