On the rare occasions when a solar eclipse occurs, we are all taught: “Don’t stare directly at the sun!” The simple reason for this is that the exposure of our eyes to the sun for a prolonged period of time can cause harmful and irreversible damage to the retina. The retina is the tissue inside of our eyes that is responsible for vision (in other words, the “film in the camera”). If we expose our eyes long enough to this intense light, permanent damage to our vision can occur.
But what about our furry friends? Are they at risk for vision loss if they stare at a solar eclipse? While dogs and cats are likely safe from the effects of the eclipse because they are unlikely to look up and stare at the sun, significant damage to their retina can still occur if they do.
Dogs and cats have a similar retina to humans, with the same types of photoreceptors that are responsible for vision. These photoreceptors can be damaged in the same manner, and vision loss can occur with direct visualization of an eclipse. Because dogs and cats have an extra reflective layer of tissue near their retina that helps night vision (called the tapetum lucidum… this is why animal’s eyes appear green/orange/yellow at night), they may in theory be more sensitive to the effects of the solar eclipse.
Therefore, to be safe, try to keep your furry loved ones inside during the solar eclipse and limit any access to windows that would show this event. Taking these precautionary measures may limit any risk of vision loss to our pets!