Dogs and Skunks: A Smelly Dilemma

July 18, 2016

APCC: Skunks

While skunks are generally docile creatures, they do have a very potent method of fending off people or animals who bother them. Unfortunately, some dogs don’t get the hint soon enough and become the target of a skunk’s spray. That’s why the  ASPCA Poison Control Center (APCC) wants to offer the following tips and advice for dealing with a dog who has been “skunked.”

Signs and Symptoms

If your dog has been sprayed by a skunk, the first thing you notice will likely be the smell. However, there are several other symptoms or problems your pet may exhibit if sprayed by a skunk:

  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Red and/or swollen eyes
  • Rolling
  • Face rubbing
  • Sneezing
  • Temporary blindness

These signs are typically seen immediately or within a couple of hours of your pet being sprayed. Symptoms like lethargy, weakness, change in urine color and pale or brown gums may take up to a few hours or even days to appear. These symptoms are rarer, but if they appear, you should take your pet to a veterinarian right away. The compounds in skunk spray are irritating and in some cases can result in damage to a dog’s red blood cells, potentially leading to anemia.

Steps to Take

What should you do if your pet has been sprayed by a skunk? The first order of business should be a bath—but regular shampoo is not going to cut it! Create a mixture out of the following ingredients:

  • 1 quart (4 cups) of 3% fresh hydrogen peroxide
  • ¼ cup baking soda
  • 1-2 teaspoons of liquid soap (dishwashing detergent)

Lather your pet in this mixture and wait five minutes, then rinse with copious amounts of water. Repeat if necessary. It is possible this may bleach your pet’s hair, but it is not toxic to their skin. Note that this mixture doesn’t store well, so you will need to make a fresh batch if your pet gets sprayed again.

If your pet’s eyes seem to be affected, rinsing them with copious amounts of tepid water for 20 minutes may relieve some discomfort.

Prevention Is Key

No one wants their pet to be sprayed by a skunk. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to discourage skunks from coming near your home:

  • Make sure there is no easy access to pet food or bird seed. Use well-sealed containers and latched lids when necessary.
  • Remove or prevent access to wood piles and areas underneath decks and houses, where skunks like to den.
  • Invest in motion-activated lights or sprinklers, as skunks do not like light or noise.
  • Sprinkle kitty litter in front of a suspected den or hole, or stuff paper, leaves or straw into the hole to let the skunks know that it is not a good place for them.

In the United States, skunks can be carriers of rabies. If you suspect your pet has been bitten by a skunk, it is best to contact a veterinarian right away.

The APCC is your best resource for any animal poison-related emergency—24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you think that your pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 immediately.