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  • Writer's pictureKnollwood Hospital for Pets

Solar Eclipse Safety for You & Your Pet

Our eclipse is expected to begin on Monday at 11:54 a.m. and to end by 1:19 p.m.

Curbed Chicago notes that while our northerly location means that residents won’t get to see the full sun-blocking effects of the eclipse, the moon will block 87 percent of the sun from our perspective. And in typical Chicago fashion, the weather may or may not be ideal for the big spectacle. That’s because Monday is shaping up to be a cloudy one. But clouds or shine, it’s important to be safe.

What about safe eclipse viewing for you?

All of the hosting eclipse watching parties next Monday for the event are recommending that serious, genuine solar glasses be worn. The Chicago Park District alone is organizing 20 separate events for next week. And while many of the formal watching parties will offer certified solar glasses for the eclipse, it may not be a bad idea to pick some up just in case.

How do you know your glasses are safe? The American Astronomical Society has a Solar Eclipse Task Force that has developed a list of Reputable Vendors of Solar Filters & Viewers page. The best bet is to buy only from listed vendors, and to test your equipment ahead of time. You shouldn't be able to see anything through a safe solar filter except the sun itself or something comparably bright, like a bright halogen light bulb. (Which, through a solar viewer, should appear relatively dim). Safe solar filters produce a view of the Sun that is comfortably bright (like the full Moon), in focus, and surrounded by dark sky.

How can you tell if your solar viewer or glasses are not safe? If you can see shaded lamps or other common household light fixtures of more ordinary brightness through your eclipse glasses or handheld viewer, and you're not sure the product came from a reputable vendor, it’s no good. If you glance at the Sun through your solar filter and find it uncomfortably bright, out of focus, and/or surrounded by a bright haze, it’s not safe. Ditch it.

Remember that a genuinely safe solar viewer does more than reduce the Sun's visible light to a comfortable brightness level. It also blocks potentially harmful UV and IR radiation (that’s the stuff that can cause blindness). Even very short exposures can cause eye damage - so always fully put on your protective gear before looking at the eclipse, and only remove it after fully turning away from the eclipse. Not even a peek without protection!

NASA says, “don't let the requisite warnings scare you away from witnessing this singular spectacle! You can experience the eclipse safely, but it is vital that you protect your eyes at all times with the proper solar filters. No matter what recommended technique you use, do not stare continuously at the sun. Take breaks and give your eyes a rest!”

NASA also warns:

  • Do not look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars, or other optical device. These devices need to have filters, too.

  • Similarly, do not look at the sun through a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while using your eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewer - concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eye(s), causing serious injury.

What does Dr. M suggest you do with your pets?

Leave pets home if you plan to attend an eclipse event.

While Dr. Mitchell agrees with the experts cited below who say that pets are much less likely to be interested in the eclipse than are their people, she says, “a very bonded pet often mimics owner behavior - so if you appear very interested, they might do the same - and eye damage can occur in as little time as a fraction of a second.” Even if you have genuine solar eye protection for your pet, “it’s hard to keep even well-fitted solar glasses on a pet for any length of time, and it’s just not worth the risk of eye damage.”

Not only that, but the concerns cited in the rest of this article “are very valid”, she comments, “(and I’m not saying this just because I researched and wrote it!) I’m especially worried about the knowledgeable warnings about how other pets might behave around yours. We’re currently treating several Knollwood pets with horrible dog bite and heat-related injuries. In none of the cases, did their people ever, ever expect that they’d have a seriously injured pet, thousands of dollars in medical bills, and their dearly loved pet in terrible distress.”

“Walter and Bettina will stay indoors during the eclipse”, says Dr. Mitchell. “These are my furkids, and I love them too much to take unnecessary chances with their health.”

Here’s what other experts say about your pet...

Expert opinions are divided. It’s clear that anyone who looks at the sun without protection can experience serious injury including blindness, if the eyes are not adequately protected. But our pets are a lot smarter than we are, it turns out, about staring at the sun.

Ed Fletcher, expert reporter for a major California newspaper talked to some experts. “Our ophthalmologists don’t see much need for concern with animals during the eclipse,” said Rob Warren, a spokesman for the UC Davis Veterinary Hospital. “Yes, their eyes could be damaged permanently if they looked directly into the sun, but animals don’t do that on normal days so there’s no reason to believe they would do it during an eclipse.” Angela Speck, director of astronomy and a professor of astrophysics at the University of Missouri agrees, saying: "On a normal day, your pets don't try to look at the sun, and therefore don't damage their eyes. And on this day, they're not going to do it, either."

But some astronomy experts say otherwise, according to Ed. He spoke to Mike Reynolds, an astronomy professor at Florida State College in Jacksonville, Florida, who recommends equipping pets with eclipse viewing glasses, saying, “safe solar viewing is always a must, no matter who it is.” And Davis’ vet school spokesperson went one step further, admitting: “If owners are concerned for their pets’ safety, the only way to guarantee their eyes won’t be damaged by the sun is to keep them indoors,” Warren said.

So Dr. Mitchell checked out what experts here in our own state are saying, in the place where the eclipse view is certain to be the most breathtaking: in Carbondale, Illinois, which is directly in the path of the best eclipse viewing in the world!

Barb Eidlen, ace reporter for The Southern Illinoisian, spoke to Jackson County Animal Control Officer Lloyd Nelson who says that while he agrees that most animals aren’t going to be looking at the sun, he has other serious concerns for pet safety. He’s worried about the increased number of people who will be in viewing areas, the animals they bring with them, and the response of the animals that already live here. Nelson asks people to be aware of the stress that that a huge influx of visitors might have on their animals.

“It’s sort of like the Fourth of July, but tripled. Be aware that your dog or cat could get spooked by solar eclipse-inspired events that involve crowds of people, whether you take a pet with you to a viewing spot or it's near your home. Many events will have concerts, people shooting off fireworks in the dark of the midday sun, loud noises, and strangers,” Nelson said. If you must bring a pet, he recommends being aware of other pets, not just yours, during the event. “But best to leave them home, where they will feel safest.”

Illinois and other naturalists note that pet lovers might enjoy observing how animals in the wild or even the neighborhood do unusual things. Previous eclipses worldwide have involved reports of night birds singing, bats flying, spiders tearing down webs or owls calling, according to a report in the Southern Illinoisan. And even pets might decide that it is time for bed! But because total solar eclipses are so infrequent, scientists have little beyond anecdotal evidence of animal behavior, Rebecca Johnson, citizen science research coordinator at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, told the paper. “Animals who prefer to be out at dawn or dusk, such as skunks, snakes, and bats, may be out during an eclipse.”

So what else does Dr. M suggest you do with your own pets?

  • Watch out for those skunks. Seriously. And if you need it, call or email us for our “skunk deodorizer remedy”.

  • Remember that NASA will have awesome live-stream coverage of the eclipse that you can watch, at a convenient time with a cool drink in hand - all guaranteed to not hurt your eyes, or those of your pets! You can access it here:

  • Remember that The Southern Illinoisian will have a very cool commemorative edition of this once-in-a-lifetime event. Support small-town newspapers!

  • And if you’re stiiilllll going to take your pet to an eclipse event after reading all this? Make sure your pet has a collar and tags with current information, including phone number, in case your pet gets lost. Pets should be short- leashed during any public events - this is not the time to be using a retractable leash, one of the biggest causes of dog fights! Take lots of drinking water, and make sure to shelter pale-skinned pets (check noses and ears, too) from the sun. Use children’s sunblock, because pets get skin cancer, too. Dr. M likes Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Sunscreen Spray Broad Spectrum SPF 70+

Until next time...thanks for reading us, share with your friends, and give your pet a hug from me!

Dr. Mitchell

Last patient of the day & week - both of us were ready for a nap!

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