How to De-Skunk Your Dog

A doggie-skunk run-in
Daniel J Cox/Oxford Scientific/Getty Images

Has your dog been sprayed by a skunk? Even if you have never faced this problem, it's helpful to know how to remove skunk spray from your dog's coat, just in case.

Contrary to popular belief, the best way to remove skunk odor is not tomato juice or vinegar. Instead, create an effective homemade skunk bath using household items. This solution will truly help get rid of the nasty odor.

The homemade skunk odor removal solution is designed to do two things. It breaks up the oils in skunk spray that cause the awful smell and neutralizes the odor at the same time. The solution can also be used to remove skunk odor from clothing and other fabrics.

The skunk spray removal solution may have a mild bleaching effect on some materials. In addition, your dog's coat may become slightly lighter as a result of contact with the solution. If this happens, the effect should resolve as new fur grows in to replace the old. Don't worry, your black dog will not become a platinum blonde!

Before You Begin Making the Skunk Removal Solution

Before attempting to remove the skunk odor, it's essential to check your dog for injuries. An encounter with a skunk may result in scratches or bites. Put on some rubber or latex gloves and old clothes and look the dog over for bites or scratches. Check your dog's eyes for redness, swelling, squinting, or discharge. If any injuries are suspected, contact your veterinarian before proceeding. Remember, skunks can carry rabies so don't ignore any wounds that you find.

What You Need

Most of the things you'll need to de-skunk your dog are already right in your kitchen or laundry supplies.

  • 1 quart (or two 500ml bottles) hydrogen peroxide 3 percent (U.S.P). It must be fresh (it can expire after opening within 6 months or so, and it must be fresh to be effective)
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons liquid soap (Ivory Liquid Cleanser or Softsoap are often recommended)
  • 1 quart lukewarm water (only needed for very large dogs)
  • A clean plastic bucket, bowl, or another mixing container (uncovered)
  • Clean plastic utensils for mixing
  • Protective eye ointment or mineral oil for the dog's eyes
  • Latex or rubber gloves
  • A protective apron and eye goggles for you, if possible
  • Plenty of paper or old cloth towels

Do not use higher concentrations of hydrogen peroxide or substitute baking soda with similar products (e.g., baking powder or washing powder). The altered chemical reaction could cause injury to you and your dog.

Start Immediately

There is no need to soak your dog with water prior to bathing. Time is of the essence here. The longer you wait to begin the process, the harder it can be to remove the stench. Get set up for bathing your dog outside or in an easy-to-clean area of your home, such as a laundry room or bathroom. If you're inside, open a window to air out the area while you're working.

Before the Bath

Use dry paper towels to dab your dog's coat in the areas where there is skunk spray. This will help absorb excess oil on the coat (skunk spray is oily). Next, apply a small strip of eye lubricant, such as Puralube or 1 to 2 drops of mineral oil to your dog's eyes. This will help protect the eyes in case any of the solution splashes or drips in them.

Make the Solution

In a plastic container, combine 1 quart of hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup baking soda, and 1 to 2 teaspoons of liquid soap. Add lukewarm water if needed for larger dogs. Mix the ingredients well.

A chemical reaction will occur and the solution will start to fizz. Use it immediately as the effectiveness will decline rapidly. Do not store this mixture or place the solution in a closed container or spray bottle. The pressure will build up and the container could burst. This could cause injury to you and your dog.

Apply to the Coat

Promptly begin cleansing the affected areas thoroughly, massaging the solution deep into your dog's coat to break up the oils from the skunk spray. You may wish to use a sponge, washcloth, or bath brush/curry comb. Avoid getting the solution in your dog's eyes, ears, or mouth (or your own).

Rest, Rinse, and Repeat

Allow the solution to remain on your dog for at least five minutes or until the odor is undetectable. Meanwhile, be sure to keep your dog from licking any of this solution!

Once the solution has done its job, rinse your dog well with lukewarm water. If necessary, repeat the wash with fresh batches of the solution as needed until the odor is gone.

Dry your dog well and give a treat as a reward!

illustration of how to deskunk your dog
Illustration: Lisa Fasol. © The Spruce, 2018

Tips

  • To help your dog avoid future run-ins with skunks, avoid attracting skunks onto your property. Do not leave food outside (even birdseed and fallen fruit from trees). Make sure garbage bins and garbage can lids are secured.
  • Mothballs and ammonia-soaked rags around your property might deter skunks from approaching. Keep them out of your dog's reach.
  • Supervise your dog outdoors. Avoid letting your dog roam wooded areas unattended. Ideally, keep your dog in a fenced-in area or on a leash in skunk prone areas
  • If your dog is regularly in situations where they might come in contact with skunks, consider keeping a bottle of Nature's Miracle Skunk Odor Remover on hand.
If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.