Help! My Dog Got Skunked!

Some Solutions to a Nasty Problem

by Cate Burnette

Depending on where you live, your pooch is liable to run into a variety of wild animals on trail walks and his off-leash forays into wooded areas. Squirrel, chipmunks, rabbits, and badgers will have little to no effect on your dog, but what happens when he meets up with a skunk? Your curious pet is quite likely to get sprayed if he insists on checking out this strange, black-and-white little creature.

Before a skunk sprays, she’ll give off warning signals: she’ll raise her tail, stand up on her hind legs, and stomp her front feet. That would be the time to get your dog quickly away from the situation. A skunk’s spray, termed “mercapton,” contains compounds called “thiols” that are not water-soluble, meaning they’re extremely hard to get out of your dog’s fur – and your clothes – with a simple shampoo bath. A fresh spray will burn your nose and, if it hits your dog’s eyes, can blind him for up to 2 days.  If you don’t get rid of the spray immediately, the smell – and its remnants – can last for up to 2 years.

Tips BEFORE You Bathe

  • Change into old clothes that you’re willing to throw away. Skunk spray is actually an oil that is as hard to get out of fabric, as it is dog fur. Don’t allow your dog to lie on his bedding for the same reason.

  • Make sure to wear disposable rubber gloves when handling or washing your dog. You don’t want the smell on your hands or skin.

  • If possible, leave your dog outside, and bathe him outside, to keep the odor out of your home
  • Try blotting some of the skunk spray with paper towels before you begin washing. Don’t rub the oil down further into the hair coat and try not to spread it further on your dog’s fur. If you use a regular bathing towel, you’ll want to use one you can later toss in the trash.
  • Determine where the spray hit your dog. You may be able to trim away some of the contaminated fur or comb it out.

Bathing Your Stinky Dog

Bathe and rinse the sprayed parts of your dog 2 or 3 times just to get out the oily skunk spray before you bathe the rest of the dog. That will help to keep the spray from spreading to uncontaminated parts of the fur.

There are some new, all-natural, anti-skunk sprays and shampoos out on the market that use essential oil-based odor counteractants in a two-step process. First, an organic spray chemically alters the odorous components of the skunk mercapton. Then, an odor neutralizing shampoo containing essential oils and organic compounds works to eliminate skunk odors and other nasty smells. The spray can also be used on water-safe clothing and furniture.

If you live in the country, or in a suburban area where skunks are prevalent, you’d do well to have these kinds of anti-skunk sprays and conditioners on hand for emergencies.

Alternatives in Emergencies

If the initial 3 or 4 baths with regular canine shampoo doesn’t leave your pooch odor-free, there are home remedies that you can try. Please note, these home remedies may not be as effective as a special anti-skunk shampoo.

Tomato juice has long been used to clear up skunk odors. Take room temperature juice and a wet sponge and thoroughly coat your dog’s hair with the tomato juice. Allow the juice to dry, then bathe and rinse your dog normally. The tomato juice might stain the coat of lighter haired dogs, but that is a small price to pay to get rid of the odor.

Listerine mouthwash is also an alternative. Use it liberally as you would the tomato juice. If your dog has sensitive skin, please note that the acid content of the mouthwash is extremely high and may irritate your dog’s skin.

The US Department of Fish and Wildlife has this formula as an alternative solution to skunk spray:

  • 1 quart of fresh, 3 percent hydrogen peroxide solution)
  • ¼ cup of baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
  • 1 teaspoon of a liquid soap that is known for its degreasing qualities

Mix the solution in a large, open container because a closed container can explode with the fizzing action between the baking soda and the hydrogen peroxide. Use the entire mixture while it is still bubbling. Wearing rubber gloves, apply the solution, work it into lather, and leave it on for 30 minutes before rinsing.

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  1. Tomato juice doesn’t work very well at all. The peroxide\baking soda\dawn mix works great. Have used it a couple time since the dog didn’t learn the first time. Lol

  2. My pekingese got hit full spray by a skunk and brought it in thru the dog door. We did the peroxide / baking soda / Dawn solution. It worked perfectly. Be warned… it bleaches EVERYTHING. Wear old clothes use old towels. We had success with our small dog by soaking him with old rags and rinsing in cold water. I have heard of this solution large amounts working with even horses. Cannot recommend enough!!!

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