A Prickly Situation: Your Pets Vs. Porcupines

August 28, 2017

porcupine eating a plant

If you’ve never see the end result of a dog or cat investigating a porcupine, a quick Internet search will  pull up a cornucopia of photos featuring animals covered in quills. The truth is when it comes to pets and porcupines, the porcupine will always win!

If your pet spends a fair amount of time outdoors, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) wants to make sure you have all the facts about these spiky rodents to help you keep your pets from letting curiosity get the best of them.

Porcupine Basics

a porcupine
  • Porcupines are the second largest rodents in North America, and are most commonly found in the western portions of the United States and Canada.
  •  They are nocturnal herbivores who tend to hang out in wooded areas.
  •  Porcupines are slow moving, short-sighted mammals, but they have a great defense mechanism: Their backs and tails are covered in around 30,000 quills that regrow when lost. Their quills aren’t poisonous, but are designed with a sharp point and barbs at the end that make them hard (and painful) to remove when stuck in another animal’s skin.

What should you do if your pet gets a little too curious about a porcupine?

porcupine quills

If your pet gets pricked, don’t panic or try to remove the quills yourself. While your furry friend may look very uncomfortable (and maybe even a little guilty), there are a few things you can do to help.

Most times, the animal will try to rub the quills out. Unfortunately, this can push the quills in further, and could create more problems for your pet. Since it is most common for pets to get quills stuck in the face, putting a cone on your pet so they can’t rub the afflicted areas is a good start. If you don’t have a cone, gently restrain your pet’s legs with a towel. If they are small enough, put them in a bag with their head sticking out and get them to a veterinary clinic as quickly as possible.

Remember that part about the quills having barbs that make them difficult to remove? Well, it’s not easy for a pet to sit still during that process. Veterinarians will often sedate or anesthetize dogs in order to safely and effectively remove quills. Even in doing so, it might take more than one try to remove all the quills. Some can get under the skin and take weeks to migrate back out again.

While there have been a few rare reports of serious problems from pets getting quilled, a majority of the time it is not serious. Unfortunately, pets don’t always learn their lesson, as there are many stories of unlucky animals getting quilled more than once. If you have a curious four-legged friend and are in an area known to have porcupines, it is best to keep your pet leashed to prevent a late night trip the emergency clinic.