Avoiding and Treating Getting Sprayed by a Skunk

Learning about skunks behavior may help prevent getting skunked

Striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) spraying

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Getting sprayed by a skunk is something you don't forget. Your dog barks frantically or maybe zooms off in another direction. Then you smell it. Some pets escape with just a spritz, while other dogs come back dripping in skunk juice. You or your pet might even pick up skunk stink when walking through grass the skunk has recently sprayed.

Skunks are nocturnal, or more accurately, crepuscular. They're active mainly at twilight, dawn, and full moon (dim light) nights. Skunks have a strong sense of smell and hear well, but they do not see very well. They do, however, have a very good aim with their offensive scent.

Why Skunks Spray

Skunks are adept at using their scent glands as a weapon against predators. Spraying is not the skunk's first line of defense. They first try to avoid encounters, but given their poor hearing and sight, they may be surprised by you or your pet and not see an easy escape.

The skunk will usually engage in a series of displays to ward off potential attacks before spraying, so it pays to know them and heed them. If a skunk feels threatened, it will hiss, stamp its feet and raise its tail as warning signs. Retreat so you won't face the next round of defense.

A mother skunk with kits may spray offensively. Once they decide to spray, the tail goes up, and the offensive secretion is sent off to its target.

Skunk Scent Glands and Spray

The scent glands are similar to the anal glands of a dog or a cat. They are located on either side of the anus and produce an oily secretion. The secretion contains sulfur compounds and that's what produces the rotten egg smell. The chemicals bind to skin protein and are not soluble in water, so they can't simply be washed off. Also, some of the compounds reactivate when wet, so the odor returns after a bath or when your pet gets wet.

The skunk scent is not normally toxic, but some pets can develop a reaction to it on repeated exposure. Monitor your pet for red eyes, lethargy, and vomiting.

If your pet is sprayed by a skunk, check your pet for any signs of bites and scratches. Skunks can carry rabies and you need to take your pet to a veterinarian if there are any injuries.

Removing the Odor

The older methods of removing skunk odor included a tomato juice or Massengill douche bath, but they never seemed to fully rid the pet of the odor. Even if passable, once the pet gets wet (i.e. rain shower), the skunk smell comes right back.

Chemist Paul Krebaum developed the skunk odor removal recipe in 1993 utilizing common household ingredients. This skunk-remover recipe uses hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and liquid soap. You need to use the precise amounts for the recipe and employ safety techniques.

Play it Safe

Learning about the skunk's lifestyle and behavior will help minimize future attacks of the smelly stuff. If you have outdoor chores at night, always to take a flashlight out so you're not surprised.