Being sprayed by a skunk is not a pleasant experience for anyone! If your dog has been at the receiving end of a skunk attack, then you will probably want to know whether it is harmful, if there are any lasting effects, and what you can do to get rid of that skunk smell!!
What is skunk spray?
A skunk is a small black and white mammal, about the size of a cat or small dog. Being omnivorous they spend a lot of time scavenging and can be seen in yards raiding trash for table scraps. Skunks, if provoked, will release an unpleasant liquid in a powerful jet from glands in their anus. This liquid spray can travel around 10 feet in distance and contains oily sulfuric chemicals called thiols which contribute to the strong smell. This defense mechanism has the intention of distracting or putting off potential attackers long enough for the skunk to make its escape.
The scent can be eye-wateringly pungent and is best avoided where possible. Unfortunately, inquisitive dogs can get caught out and will often get squirted directly in the face by a skunk!
Why do dogs get sprayed by skunks?
A skunk will spray if it is feeling threatened. They will often give some warning signs beforehand such as hissing, stamping their feet, and raising their tail. If these warnings are ignored, then the skunk will spray. This is their main defense mechanism which will help ward off predators, allowing the skunk to escape unharmed. Even a friendly and inquisitive dog may be seen as a threat by a skunk, especially if they get up close to have a sniff.
Dogs may also get sprayed by a skunk when investigating the trash themselves, or when exploring bushes and piles of branches, where skunks may be sheltering. Usually, the spray is off-putting enough that physical fights between dogs and skunks are rare.
Can skunk spray harm a dog?
Skunk spray can irritate if your dog gets it in his eyes or mouth. Your dog may go temporarily blind or be rubbing at his face. If his eyes seem red or sore, then gently use tepid water or an eyewash to rinse them. You should call your veterinarian if your dog still seems excessively uncomfortable though. Skin irritations are uncommon, but the odor can linger for a long time in his fur. Very occasionally a dog may vomit or froth if the spray ends up in his mouth.
In extremely rare cases the thiols in the skunk’s spray can cause oxidative damage to the dog’s red blood cells. This leads to anemia and the dog can become very poorly. There are not many reported cases of this occurring, but if you notice your dog’s gums becoming pale over the 24-48 hours following a skunk attack, it’s best to see a vet.
What to do if a dog gets sprayed by a skunk (step-by-step)
How to get skunk smell off of a dog?
There is a home remedy you can use to reduce the skunk odor on your dog’s fur, but it should be used with caution as it can cause skin irritation and bleaching of the coat. Mix up the following ingredients to use as a wash –
- 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide solution
- ¼ cup of baking soda
- 1 teaspoon of liquid dishwashing soap (such as Dawn dish soap)
(Use this solution straight away – do not store it, as it could explode if left unattended in a closed container)
Wearing rubber gloves, lather the solution thoroughly into his coat. Do not leave it on too long before rinsing as it could potentially bleach his fur changing the color and make sure you don’t use hydrogen peroxide that is stronger than 3% as it could cause skin irritations. Use clean water to rinse the solution off. You may need to repeat this process more than once. Be very careful not to get this mix in your dog’s eyes.
If you do not have those ingredients, then you could try white vinegar diluted in water as an alternative home remedy instead. Lemon juice or tomato juice have also been said to help, but these are not as effective as the hydrogen peroxide solution.
There are also commercial products available for getting rid of skunk stink, such as special dog shampoos. These can be effective and are much safer than a home remedy. If you live in an area with lots of skunks you might want to purchase de-skunk shampoo in advance.
Following this, use your pet’s normal scented shampoo to remove any remaining residues from his coat and towel dry him. It is not recommended to spray your dog with Febreeze or any other deodorizing products, although doggy deodorant can be purchased and is safe to use.
Sometimes the odor can still linger because it is tricky to wash all areas of your dog’s body and completely deskunk them. This is especially the case around their eyes and ears if they were sprayed in the face. Using a sponge could help- but try to avoid getting any products directly in your dog’s eyes. If this accidentally occurs, you can rinse your dog’s eyes out gently with an eyewash or tepid water. Contact your veterinarian if you have any concerns.
Preventing your dog from getting sprayed by a skunk
You may wish to look at your yard security if you are getting a lot of skunks on your property. Good fencing with chicken wire can help keep them out as can other deterrents such as having motion sensor lights. Skunks are nocturnal by nature so a bright light can put them off from hanging around. Keep your garbage well secured on your property so that it is not attracting attention from skunks who may try and scavenge in it. You can also block off any hiding places such as under your decking or in sheds/outbuildings- this will stop them from nesting there. Skunks will also feed on small rodents like rats and mice, so make sure you don’t have other concurrent pest problems too!
It is difficult to avoid chance encounters whilst out walking, but ensuring your dog has good recall training when he is off the leash can help if he does stumble across a skunk.
You might want to consider keeping a first aid kit at home if you have a lot of skunks in your area. Keep a proper eyewash for flushing eyes out and have de-skunking shampoo available for when it’s needed.
Although we can’t always stop a skunk spray incident from occurring, hopefully, this article will help you deal with it should it ever happen to your dog. The main things to remember are to keep your pet outdoors following the incident, wear gloves, rinse his eyes out with saline or clean water, wash his coat thoroughly, and contact your veterinarian if things don’t seem right.
- Does your dog like to explore things he shouldn’t outside? If he gets attacked by a porcupine, follow our vet’s guide on what to do here.
Featured Image Credit: otsphoto, Shutterstock