Uh-oh…you’re hiking along and the dog runs ahead and suddenly you hear barking or maybe a yip or two. You go to investigate and lo and behold, you catch up to your pup and realize he’s been sprayed by a skunk. Your eyes begin to water, you nearly puke from the smell and your pup wants comfort and relief and looks to you for it. “Mommy…what just happened? I thought that was a kitty!” What’s a good fur-mom supposed to do?
Although skunks are generally docile, they will definitely let you know if you’ve threatened their space. Normally they will quickly waddle away, duck under a bush or use some other flight mechanism. But sometimes a dog doesn’t quite catch the hint. The result being that distinctive make-your-eyes water-smell you cannot seem to easily get rid of from a poor pup’s furs.
While the lovable cartoon character Pepe Le Pew may be made into a big screen movie, as recently reported during the last week’s Comic-Con, we hope the furry critter stays on the big screen and does not cross our path any time soon. Fortunately, we haven’t had skunks in our ‘hood (although a very similar, though far less potent smell accompanies neighborhood foxes who happen by), we used to visit my daughter in the nearby foothills. With all manner of critters including deer, foxes, bears, skunks, rock squirrels, I always worried one of the dogs would end up being sprayed. And with Sam being the dimmest of the lot, I figured it would be him. So far we’ve been ‘lucky.’
But it occurred to me not every dog is so lucky (and I’m sure our day will come). Even though the first thing that will tip you off that your pup has been sprayed by a skunk will be the smell, there are other signs that suggest being sprayed including drooling, vomiting, red or swollen eyes, face rubbing, sneezing, temporary blindness, maybe even rolling trying to get that stench off it’s fur. If lethargy, weakness, a change in urine color or pale or brown gums appear hours or days later after being sprayed, you should take your pup to a vet right away. The components in skunk spray are definitely irritating and can result in damage to red blood cells and the last thing you need is anemia on top of the stink. Remember too that skunks may carry rabies so if your pup was bitten as well as sprayed, be sure to check with your vet.
Obviously you’ll want to bathe your pup. Sadly regular shampoo for dogs isn’t gonna cut it but a homemade mixture of 4 cups of 3% fresh hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup of baking soda, and 1 to 2 teaspoons of dishwashing liquid soap (Dawn is a decent choice here). Lather up the dog, and leave in for at least 5 minutes. Rinse. Rinse again, and rinse yet again. Repeat. The peroxide might lighten your pup’s fur so be aware but it’s not toxic. If your pup took a direct hit to the eyes, rinse out with gobs of tepid water for 20 minutes to relieve the discomfort. As this recipe from the ASPCA doesn’t store well, you should make it up fresh whenever there’s an encounter with Pepe Le Pew.
Naturally prevention is the best way to deal with skunks but if it does happen to your fur-kid, you’ll know how to take care of the problem. Remember to keep food or bird seed in well sealed containers without easy access by the black and white stinker. Keep your pet away from wood piles, limit access to underneath decks or any obvious areas where they might make a den. A motion-activated lighting system may help as skunks prefer dark areas. If you find a suspected den, sprinkle kitty liter to signal that location should not be used to set up house.
Has your pup ever had an encounter with a skunk? What did you use to get rid of the stink? Here’s wishing you a smell-free weekend. At the very least, one without skunks.
Live, love, bark! <3