Skunks are mammals native to North and South America and are related to such critters as ferrets, badgers, and otters, to name a few. They are members of the Mustelidae family and, while almost every member of this family creates a pungent secretion in their scent anal glands, skunks are the only ones with the ability to forcefully spray it up to 15 feet.
Most dog parents are very much aware of skunks and the noxious spray they can produce. So what can you do when your curious pooch gets a little too close for comfort and ends up getting sprayed? Read on to know not only what you can do to de-skunk your dog but also what to look out for if your dog gets face full of skunk spray.
What Is Skunk Spray?
Skunk spray is produced in the anal glands of the skunk. It is a yellow oil composed of several different, volatile (meaning readily becoming a gas) compounds that are called thiols, or thioacetates. Thioacetates, while less smell than thiols, are readily converted into thiols when they mixed with water. This is why a dog that has been sprayed by a skunk has a more pungent odor when they become wet. Thiols also have a nasty ability of binding quickly and strongly to skin proteins. The purpose of this odiferous concoction is purely self-defense. When a skunk is frightened, they can and will spray this liquid directly into whatever is pursuing them.
What Can You Do for Your Skunked Dog?
If your dog gets skunk spray in their eyes, they may become red and irritated. If this happens, you will want to immediately flush your dog's eyes out. There are different products available on the market that are safe to use in this way. If you live in an area where skunks are common, it wouldn't hurt to keep some on hand.
Once you have flushed any and all skunk spray out of your dog's eyes it's time to remove the oily spray from the rest of their coat. Years ago homemade, tomato juice based baths were remedy of choice, but the efficacy was spotty and, as one can imagine, the tomato juice would leave the skin and fur of lighter colored dogs stained. Thankfully we live in a world full of medical advancements and human ingenuity and today there are various products on the market that are more effective than tomato juice. If you're still wanting to DIY it, there are also much more effective, peroxide based shampoo recipes available.
The most effective homemade remedy to de-skunk your dog is, after consulting your veterinarian, to make a solution of 1 quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, a quarter cup of baking soda, and one to two teaspoons of liquid hand soap. For larger dogs, you may also need one quart of lukewarm water. You will want to wear rubber gloves as you work this solution into your dog's coat before rinsing him thoroughly. It's important to not leave the solution on too long, as the peroxide may bleach your dog's fur after prolonged exposure. You also want to be sure to use only three percent hydrogen peroxide and not anything stronger as it can be more irritating to your dog's skin. You may need to repeat this step if your dog is particularly smelly. Once the solution is fully rinsed off, shampoo your dog to remove any residual solution as well as to leave your dog smelling fresh and clean. Then towel dry your dog as best as you can.
If any skunk smell gets on you during any part of this process you will want to wash your clothes in regular laundry detergent and a half cup of baking soda.
Can I Prevent my Dog From Encountering a Skunk?
There are measures you can take to make your yard less attractive to a skunk. Securely seal your outside trash receptacle to prevent a skunk from getting into your garbage. If you feed dogs or cats outdoors, pick up the food and water bowls at night. Similarly, if you have any bird feeders, pick up any spilled seed daily. If you have a porch or shed, a skunk might find the area underneath those structures desirable for a den. You can block access by tacking chicken wire all around or laying bricks all around. You can also toss mothballs underneath as they won't appreciate to odor and will den elsewhere.
Skunks love to eat grubs, in addition to mice and voles, so using a grub killer will prevent skunks from tearing up your lawn in the middle of the night in search of dinner. It should be noted, however, that grub killers aren't activated until they have been watered into the soil. However, once the lawn dries, it is safe for you pets and family to be on.
Skunks can carry a bad reputation, especially among dog owners. Knowing the steps you can take if your dog has a not-so-nice encounter with one can be the difference in something that you can laugh about later and something that can really put a damper on how your day is going.