What to Do if Your Dog is Attacked by a Porcupine

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What to Do if Your Dog is Attacked by a Porcupine

Outdoor excursions are always something to look forward to for pets and pet owners alike. These are excellent opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors and bombard the senses with varied and interesting sights, scents, sounds, and textures while breathing in the fresh air and embarking on adventures. But dogs are extremely curious creatures. They tend to wander off paths when something piques their curiosity, or they spot something that triggers their prey drive into full gear. These impulsive forays may eventually result in an encounter with a porcupine. Continue reading to learn what to do if your dog has an unfortunate encounter with a porcupine! 

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What are porcupines?

Porcupines are rodents with poor eyesight but a very keen sense of smell. They are herbivores and thrive on a diet of fruits, nuts, and other plants. Being nocturnal creatures, they tend to be active before sunset, especially during summer when days are longer than the rest of the year. This is one reason why there are more dog-porcupine encounters during the summer months than in winter when days are short and the cold weather forces porcupines to stay in their dens.

Porcupines Have Needle-Like Quills

Porcupines possess needle-like quills that are released when a potential threat is perceived. This defense mechanism protects them from predators as the sharp quills can penetrate tissues and cause pain. The quills may seriously cause harm or even kill the aggressor. A porcupine’s quills are capable of regrowth and are effective in protecting them.

Porcupines can have more than 30,000 quills on their body. The number of quills that are released during a porcupine attack can range from a few to several hundred.

What Happens When Your Dog is Attacked by a Porcupine

Most dogs that are attacked by porcupines have quills lodged in their faces, necks, chests, and shoulders. Quills may also be embedded in the dog’s mouth, nose, and sometimes the eyes.

What’s interesting about these quills is that they tend to migrate deeper into the tissues, causing trauma, pain, and a favorable ground for infection. This happens because the tip of a quill has a barb that makes it easier to attach and dig deeper into the skin. Also, body heat causes the quills to expand as they migrate further into your dog’s tissues. There have been cases when porcupine quills reached vital organs and caused a life-threatening injury.

When porcupine quills land on your dog’s body, the immediate reaction of your pet is to rub his face on any surface. But this can only make matters worse because it can drive the quills deeper into the tissues of the skin.

What to Do Following a Porcupine Attack on Your Dog

1. As in other dangerous situations, the first thing to remember is to remain calm. Remember that what you do right after your dog has been attacked by a porcupine is very important. As the quills become embedded in your pet’s body, they can cause a significant amount of pain. But you have to prevent your dog from rubbing the areas of the body where the quills are embedded.

2. Get your dog away from the porcupine immediately. Quick action can prevent your pet from getting hit with more quills.

3. Get your dog to a vet right away. The best thing that you can do for your dog after a porcupine attack is to get him to the veterinarian ASAP. The longer the quills are embedded in the dog’s skin, the more brittle and rigid they become. This will only make their removal more complicated. Be careful not to touch the quills when handling your dog on your way to the vet.

4. Do not remove the quills. Doing so will inflict more pain on your dog and put you at risk of being bitten. It can also increase your dog’s risks of potentially serious complications. The quills may break off, leaving parts embedded in the dog’s skin. This may eventually develop into an abscess. Even when broken, the embedded quills continue to swell and splinter, causing a significant amount of damage to the tissues.

How Porcupine Quills are Removed by Your Vet

Once you and your dog have arrived at the clinic, your vet will perform a thorough exam. Next, they will likely administer a sedative or general anesthesia before removing the quills. If some quills are deeply embedded, an ultrasound may be necessary to pinpoint their location. A CT scan may be performed to make sure that all the quills have been removed. This is especially important when there are quills on a large part of your pet’s body, many of the quills have broken off, or veterinary attention has been delayed.

Several factors can determine how long it will take to remove the quills and the difficulty of the removal. These include:

  • Number of quills
  • Location of the quills
  • How many quills have broken off
  • Length of time the quills have been embedded in the dog’s skin

Once all the quills have been removed, your vet will give you discharge instructions. Make sure that you follow them closely. These will include administering and finishing all prescribed medications. A round of antibiotics, pain medication, and topical medication are commonly included.

How to Care for Your Dog After a Porcupine Attack

Any wound or incision on your dog’s body should be monitored closely for signs of swelling, redness, or discharge. If you see these signs or your pet doesn’t appear to be improving, be sure to inform your vet.

Once you’re home, let your dog stay in a peaceful and quiet room as he recuperates from the pain and swelling. Physical activity needs to be restricted during this time. Your pet’s food and water bowl should be easily accessible and there should be a soft and comfortable place for your dog to rest.

If there are sutures or wounds, bathing your dog will have to wait until the sutures have been removed and your vet has given the go signal. The recovery period may take up to 10-14 days.

What happens if the quills aren’t removed?

Considering that there is a possibility that some quills are still embedded in your pet’s body, keep a close eye on your dog for at least two weeks following the encounter with the porcupine. Any redness, swelling, or pain should be brought to the attention of your vet.

Quills that are embedded too deep or have broken off and were not removed can lead to serious complications, like infections developing in the deep tissues of the body, migrating quills that could enter the dog’s eyes, brain, and other organs, or even death.

Tips to Protect Your Dog from Porcupines

Many dogs experience repeat porcupine encounters as a result of their curiosity and strong predatory instincts. The task of preventing these encounters now falls into your hands.

  • Don’t allow your dog to roam at dusk or dawn.
  • Be aware of where porcupine dens are present and don’t let your dog venture into these areas.
  • Always keep your dog on a leash when venturing outdoors.
  • If porcupines abound in your area, train your dog how to avoid them.
  • Emergency recall behavior training is also necessary. You can ask a professional dog trainer about these essential training regimens for your dog.

Read more:

First Aid Kit Checklist for the Dog Owner

Pet First Aid: How to Treat Minor Wounds

Dog Park Safety Tips

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Published: 9/29/2021

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