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When a skunk sprays your pet

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1820090907150650Skunk

When a skunk sprays your pet, it can be difficult to remove the scent. Skunks are not particularly big or fearsome, but few wild animals have a more potent defense.  When frightened, threatened, or even surprised, skunks spray a highly odorous liquid from sacs located near their anus.  These sacs are essentially modified versions of the anal glands found in dogs.

Skunk spray is extremely potent and difficult to remove, causing quite a problem for curious pets and their owners. Considering that our pets can smell far better than we can, one can only imagine how they must feel about their new aroma.

Diagnosis of "skunking" is obvious to anyone downwind of the victim.  Many pets have a "hang-dog" expression, as if they realize how bad they smell.  Pets that have been sprayed in the face may rub at red, irritated eyes or drool from an irritated mouth.

The first step in treating skunk spray in your pet is to reduce any irritation.  The eyes can be flushed with a sterile eye wash, and the mouth can be flushed with a garden hose.  It is not possible to overdo!  The next step is to start working on the odor, which unfortunately is a lengthy and smelly process.  Before starting the deskunking process, it is a good idea to protect your pet's eyes with a sterile ophthalmic ointment.

The best way to start deskunking your pet is to bathe it many times with a shampoo specifically formulated for pets (do not use people soap or shampoo).  Commercial anti-skunk shampoos and rinses are also available.  Home remedies such as tomato juice can also be quite helpful.  It's best to first wet your pet and then to work the tomato juice through the fur, leaving it set for several minutes before rinsing thoroughly.

Your veterinarian can guide you through the process and offer additional tips.  You can usually get the smell to a tolerable level very quickly, but it often takes many weeks for the odor to go away completely.

Your can prevent your pet from getting skunked by not letting it roam alone, especially at night when skunks are active.  It is also important to make sure that your pet is up to date on its rabies vaccination, because skunks are a common carrier of this fatal disease.

Q&A

What should I do if my pet gets sprayed by a skunk?

The first step in treating skunk spray is to reduce irritation by flushing red eyes with sterile eyewash, and by flushing a drooling mouth with water from a garden hose.  The next step is to start working on the odor, which unfortunately is a lengthy and smelly process.  


How can I remove the smell from my pet?

The best way to start deskunking your pet is to bathe it many times with a pet shampoo (do not use people shampoo/soap) or commercial anti-skunk shampoos/rinses.  Soaking your pet’s fur for several minutes with tomato juice can also be quite helpful.  


How can I tell when I have treated enough?

Your goal should be to get the smell to a tolerable level, because it will take days to weeks for the odor to go away completely.


How can I protect my pet from getting skunked?

Do not let your pet roam, especially at night when skunks are active.  It is also important to make sure that your pet’s rabies vaccination is up to date, because skunks are a common carrier of this fatal disease.

 

Credit: Written and reviewed by John A. Bukowski, DVM, MPH, PhDand Susan E. Aiello, DVM, ELS
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