Picture it: it’s a warm summer night, the sun has set, the stars are twinkling, and the familiar smell of – skunk! – fills the air. As unpleasant as the smell is, even more so is the sense of dread that can overcome any dog owner upon realizing your dog is also outside – potentially falling victim to being sprayed.
Despite all best intentions to keep them away, skunks are nocturnal creatures that become even more active during the summer months. This means as your dog spends more time outdoors, the risk of them encountering one another increases.
While the smell alone may make us want to turn up our nose and head the other way, it’s many-a-dog-owner’s right of passage to de-skunk a dog or two. But don’t fear – the Happy Puppy Tips team is here to share exactly what to do if your pup comes into contact with Pepé Le Pew.
The Threat Skunks Pose to Your Pet
Skunks are cute little furry animals, so it’s a pretty common occurrence for a dog to be sprayed by a skunk because of their natural friendliness and curiosity. Skunks, on the other hand, are quite the opposite, erring more on the side of being cautious and fearful. And, when they’re in fear, they spray as a natural defense mechanism – but never without warning first.
Whether a skunk encounters a person or your curious canine, they’ll first attempt to scare off potential predators by stomping their feet, scratching the ground, and even hissing. But if all else fails, they will resort to spraying to protect themselves, even if you or your dog mean no harm – and this can be detrimental to your dog’s wellbeing.
Rabies aside, skunk’s can be extremely dangerous to dogs because of their spray, specifically. Familiar to the scent of a cross between burnt rubber and garlic, skunk spray is filled with the same toxins found in garlic and onion, which have proven to be harmful to dogs. So, just like if they were to eat garlic or onion, skunk spray can trigger a negative reaction in dogs, including vomiting, diarrhea, and potentially life-threatening dehydration and anaphylaxis. If you observe any of these symptoms post-spray, it’s important to call your vet and get your pup the proper care he or she needs ASAP.
What to Do if Your Dog Gets Sprayed
Thankfully, more often than not, a dog who gets sprayed by a skunk results in nothing more than an inconvenience. If your dog greets you with a foul smell after spending some time outside, proper care is of the essence to keep the smell from lingering for too long.
Despite what seems like a natural first reaction, do not bathe your dog right away, since this can actually cause the oils from the spray to set in deeper into your dog’s fur, making it more difficult to remove without the proper rinse. Instead, keep your dog outdoors and immediately check their eyes and mouth, gently rinsing them if they seem red or irritated.
Next, fill up a bucket or your tub, and gather bathtime materials, including their shampoo, a towel you don’t mind tossing, and gloves for you. Grab a deskunk rinse, or, if you don’t have some readily available, prepare a mix of 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide with 1/3 cup baking soda plus 1 teaspoon of liquid dish soap.
Now, put on your gloves, get your pup in the tub, and apply your deskunk rinse or DIY mixture, ensuring to scrub it in thoroughly. Let it sit for a moment and rinse, followed by a good shampoo. Towel dry your dog, and let them dry completely before determining if they’ll need another round in the bath.
Finally, while it’s impossible to avoid skunks completely, you can prevent this smelly attack from becoming a regular occurrence by making your home less appealing for skunks. Ensure all trash bins are secured, and remove outside food bowls, which are known to attract hungry surfeits. And, as a best practice, never let your dog outdoors unsupervised from dusk to dawn, which are the most popular hours for skunks to be out and about.