The black and white stripes of a skunk cause fear in many people, not because they are aggressive, but because even from a distance, a skunk can spray you. People know to avoid skunks for this reason, but dogs unfortunately don't always heed our advice. Knowing what to do if your dog gets sprayed by a skunk can help you decrease the time you'll spend smelling skunk.
What Is Skunk Spray?
A skunk has two glands located on either side of their anus. These glands are like little balloons that fill with foul smelling sulfur-based fluid. This fluid can be forcefully sprayed out of the glands through a small duct. When a skunk chooses to spray something or someone, this foul smelling fluid is released.
Skunk spray is difficult to remove and can linger for days. It is yellow in color, oily, and can irritate the eyes, nose, mouth, and skin. Because it has such a foul odor that doesn't go away quickly on its own, when a dog gets sprayed, options to get a dog smelling better are urgently needed.
What Options Do You Have for Your Skunked Dog?
Over the years, people have suggested a variety of things to quickly remove the skunk smell from a dog that's been sprayed. Efficacy, cost, and convenience may all be considered while exploring your options for getting rid of the smell but some things, such as tomato juice, just don't work. It is best to stick to the tried-and-true methods.
Typical dog shampoo is not going to get rid of the skunk smell from a dog that has been sprayed, but there are special shampoos that are available for purchase, and they do help. These shampoos are specifically designed to neutralize the skunk odor so be sure to read the label and follow the directions for use. Some shampoos that are designed for getting rid of the skunk smell are Skunk-Off, Nature's Miracle Skunk Odor Remover, and De-Skunk Odor Destroying Shampoo. If you live in an area where there are a lot of skunks or your dog has a history of being a little too curious around skunks, it's a good idea to have a bottle of store-bought shampoo on hand at all times.
If you don't have time to buy shampoo or you want to save money while still getting rid of the skunk smell on your dog, a simple homemade shampoo may be all you need. If you have a fresh bottle of 3% hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and liquid dish soap available, you can concoct your own effective skunk smell-eliminating shampoo.
To make this shampoo, combine one quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide (from a new bottle), 1/4 cup of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), and 1-2 teaspoons of liquid dish soap. This concoction neutralizes the odor but must be used immediately upon mixing. It cannot be pre-made and should not be stored in a closed container; the container could burst as the hydrogen peroxide releases oxygen.
Avoid getting this in your dog's eyes and be sure to prevent your dog from licking or ingesting it as it can cause vomiting. Once it is applied to your dog, allow it to sit for five minutes before rinsing it off and repeat as needed. Be aware that the mixture may lighten dark fur or clothing.
If your dog is sprayed in the face by a skunk, you will want to have eye rinse solution available. Skunk spray can be very irritating to eyes and can even cause conjunctivitis if it is not promptly rinsed out. Simple saline or artificial tears eye drops can be applied to your dogs eyes to gently flush them and provide some relief to your dog.
Does Your Skunked Dog Need to See the Vet?
Most dogs do not require veterinary treatment after being sprayed by a skunk, but should receive decontamination treatment like flushing their eyes and repeated bathing. If dogs swallow or inhale some of the spray, they may become nauseated and experience vomiting and diarrhea or airway irritation. In rare cases, heavy exposure to skunk spray can affect red blood cells and lead to anemia. Symptoms include weakness, lethargy, pale gums, or dark urine, and may not be seen for a few days.
If these symptoms develop, it could be time for a trip to the veterinarian. If your dog’s eyes seem irritated, they should be evaluated to determine if medications are needed. Additionally, some animal hospitals may be willing to give your dog a skunk bath if you cannot do it at home. Because skunks can carry rabies, it is important to have your dog evaluated if you think the skunk made physical contact with your dog, and always make sure to keep your dog's vaccinations up-to-date.