For my first veterinary job, I worked for a clinic in a small farming community. Needless to say, we had our share of dogs that tangled with area wildlife. When I had to help an owner with a dog sprayed by skunk, I would offer them some of the following advice:
First, What Not to Do:
If your pup comes home smelling like a skunk, your first inclination might be to get him in the bathtub or to soak him with tomato juice, but not so fast. You should avoid: (1)
- Giving a tomato juice bath – According to Mythbusters, this traditional remedy doesn’t work that well.
- Hosing Fido down – The skunk spray is an oily substance. Getting your pooch wet won’t remove the chemical, and it may spread it around on his fur.
- Putting off for tomorrow – When you’re dealing with skunk spray, sooner is better. The longer the oil stays on fur or clothing, the more likely that it will set in the fiber like a bad stain. Only in this case, it’s the odor that lingers.
OK, Now Tell Me What to Do:
Before you begin
Wait, you just told me to go to work right away… While you don’t want to delay de-skunking very long, that’s not your first step. First, check Fido over from head to tail.
- Assess his behavior. He may be a little stunned and disoriented, but do you notice any other abnormal actions like drooling, vomiting, or acting like he can’t see?
- Check for any wounds or other injuries. You want to rule out a bite from the offending skunk. If you see any broken skin, take him to your veterinarian just in case he tangled with an animal that has rabies.
- Look for any rashes or other skin reactions. Some pups can have an allergic response to skunk spray.
- Check the eyes. If he’s pawing at his face, has lots of tears, or if you see spray around the face and eyes, you’ll want to flush the area with saline and get your pal to the clinic for follow-up care.
Keep your fur-baby outside
The last thing you want to do is bring your pooch into the house where the odor could soak into fabrics and other items inside.
Tie or kennel your pup while you collect your supplies:
- Rubber gloves
- Old towels
- Old clothes
- De-skunk solution ingredients (see below)
De-Skunk Your Dog
While there are some commercial skunk odor products on the market, you probably won’t have them on hand the first time.
Good news! you can also use common household products to make a home-made remedy to neutralize the odor: (2)
- 1 quart 3% hydrogen peroxide
- ¼ cup baking soda
- 1 teaspoon liquid dishwashing soap
- DO NOT mix this solution ahead of time. It can explode if you store it in a closed container.
- DO NOT spray near the eyes or mouth. The peroxide can cause damage to the tissues.
- Soak your dog with water and rub the de-skunking mixture through the fur (remember to wear rubber gloves when handling the peroxide solution).
- Rinse thoroughly.
- Shampoo your fur-baby with your usual pet product and dry him with a towel.
- Wash your clothes with your normal detergent to remove any residual odor.
How Do You Treat a Skunk’s Spray in a Dog’s Eye?
If you think your pup got skunk spray in his eyes, or if you see any of the following signs, flush the eyes with a sterile saline solution as soon as possible:
- Redness in the eyes
- Rapid blinking
- Pawing at or rubbing the eyes
The oil can be damaging to tissues in the eye, so it’s important to act quickly. After you provide this first aid care, contact your veterinarian for a follow-up exam and treatment. In the meantime, keep Fido from pawing at his face to prevent injury.
Where Does Skunk Spray Come From?
Skunks spray the oily substance from two sacs called anal glands that are under the tail. The chemical is a combination of molecules called “thiols” that are also found in decaying carcasses.
Skunk Spray Is Not Only Smelly But Dangerous?
Besides the unbearable stench, there’s another reason that you want to de-sunk your pooch ASAP. Skunk spray can be deadly. There are toxic chemicals in the substance that are similar to those found in onions or garlic. Depending on the amount and location of skunk spray on Fido, the toxic effects can include:
In rare cases, dogs can develop anemia after exposure to skunk spray. If the spray gets in open wounds or on the membranes around the mouth or eyes, it might enter the bloodstream. The chemicals can destroy red blood cells leading to anemia. After an encounter with a skunk, watch for signs like: (3)
- Anorexia or lack of appetite
- Tarry, black feces
- Red-brown urine
- Pale membranes around lips, mouth, and gums
- Discolored skin
Symptoms can appear as long as 24 hours after the spraying occurs. When you see these signs, it’s crucial that you get Fido to your veterinarian. Delaying treatment can result in death.
When your four-footed pal meets up with a skunk, they may get more than spray. Often, these wild animals will bite before turning tail to eject their smelly oils. If there are any wounds on your furbaby, take them to your veterinarian. You’ll want to seek treatment to head off potential infections. Remember, skunks can be rabies carriers as well. Your pup’s doctor will probably want to take preventative measures just in case.
Symptoms of Skunk Spray in Dogs
Besides the obvious reek, you may see other symptoms after Fido gets sprayed by a skunk:
- Nausea and vomiting – If the spray gets around the nose and mouth, and your pup ingests or inhales some of the chemicals, it can cause vomiting.
- Drooling – Abnormal amounts of drool suggest that the toxic substance contacted the membranes around the mouth.
- Squinting – The chemicals in the spray are caustic. If it gets in the eye, your pooch may squint due to the pain. Flush the eye ASAP and call your vet for an eye exam.
- Tearing – When the spray irritates the eye, the glands around the organ will produce extra tears to flush out the chemical. If your pal’s eyes appear wet and have a watery discharge, use a sterile saline eyewash.
- Rubbing the face and eyes – It’s likely Fido got the spray on his head if he’s rubbing at his eyes and face. Check for signs like squinting and tearing to help determine if any of the substance got in the eye.
- Temporary blindness – The irritating oils can coat the eye and impair vision. Watch to see if your pooch starts bumping into things and acting like he can’t see very well.
Any of these symptoms should trigger a call to your veterinarian for a check-up.
Skunk Smell Aftercare
Monitor Your Pal
When you’re done cleaning your furbaby, watch him for the next few days for signs of a toxic reaction. If you see any of the symptoms mentioned in previous sections, contact your veterinarian.
What if Fido Still Smells?
Even after you de-skunk Fido you might notice a residual odor on the fur, especially when he gets wet. This should fade over time. If you just can’t take it, make an appointment with your groomer.
What If He Got Sprayed in the Yard?
If your pup met up with the skunk in your yard, keep him away from the area until the smell is gone. You don’t want him to pick up more oil when he’s playing outside.
How to Avoid Getting Skunked Again
There’s no sure fire way to guarantee that your four-footed friend won’t get skunked again, but you can do some things to make it far less likely: (4)
- Don’t leave treats or food outside. Food scraps attract skunks and other unwelcome guests. If you have fruit trees or a garden, harvest your fruits and vegetables as soon as they’re ripe.
- Use a trash can with a tight-fitting lid. Better yet, store it inside at night. Skunks are scavengers, and an open garbage bin is inviting to them.
- Keep Fido inside at dusk and dawn, and use a flashlight or yard lights after dark. You should also avoid walking your pooch near the woods at dawn or dusk. Skunks are normally active at night.
- If you live near woods, consider using a fence to keep your pup from wandering.
What About the Skunk?
If the skunk is anywhere to be found, you can check to make sure it’s alright. Remember to be safe. The critter may still be on high alert, and you don’t want to get sprayed!
Call animal control if you find an injured skunk or if you think the animal is living on your property. Keep your pooch away from the area to prevent second spraying.
If Fido managed to kill the skunk, you can contact your veterinarian or animal control to find out how you can have it tested for rabies.
How To Keep Skunks Away From the House
Modify The Habitat
In addition to keeping a lid on your trash cans and removing any food from the yard, you can try the following to discourage skunks from coming on your property:
- Remove any brush piles and tree stumps where the critters could make a den.
- Organize your wood and clear away any debris.
- Seal or block any openings where wildlife could access sheds or get under decks or porches.
- Make sure vents are in good repair and closed.
- Consider keeping a bright light on in your yard after dark and using automatic sprinklers overnight to discourage visitors.
Wildlife management experts tell us the best prevention is to remove food and modify the habitat. Applying skunk repellents alone will probably not keep the animals away. However, you can try one of the substances below in combination with other measures: (5)
- Predator urine – This product is usually a liquid or granule form of dog or fox urine.
- Pepper sprays – Try spraying trees in the area of skunk sightings.
- Ammonia – This chemical can be irritating to wildlife. If you want to try ammonia, the best way to do it is to soak old rags with the chemical and leave them in enclosed areas such as under your porch or deck.
- Citrus peels – scatter peels from oranges or lemons around your property.
No one wants to deal with Eau de Skunk. But it happens.If you live in a place where there are skunks, consider stocking up on the ingredients for a de-skunking solution. Stay alert and take appropriate preventative measures.
Be prepared to give your special pal the care they need by understanding the signs and symptoms of a toxic response. If you have any questions or concerns, call your vet.
Do all you can to keep Fido safe and healthy.
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