What to Do if Your Dog was Sprayed by a Skunk

Estimated Reading Time 4 minutes
What to Do if Your Dog was Sprayed by a Skunk

If you live in an area where skunks are regularly sighted, chances are you’re familiar with how notorious their spray is, and you know it’s not something you don’t want your dog to experience. Unfortunately, there’s always that looming risk that your dog will encounter a skunk and may get sprayed. Continue reading to learn why being skunked is such a nasty ordeal, how to care for your dog if he was sprayed by a skunk, and mistakes to avoid when trying to bathe your smelly friend.

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Why do skunks smell so horrible and why is their spray so difficult to remove?

Skunks are notoriously known for their spray. They spray animals or people as a defense mechanism, often used as a last resort when they feel threatened. What’s interesting is that skunks can aim their spray directly at an individual and can spray the liquid as far as 15 feet! This makes skunks very efficient in using their scent to ward off potential predators or anyone they feel threatened by.

A skunk’s spray is composed mostly of oil produced by the animal’s anal glands. It contains a sulfuric compound called thiol or thioacetate, the chemical responsible for its pungent smell. On contact, thiols bind to protein molecules found in your dog’s skin. This bond between the protein and the thiol compound is difficult to break, which is why the horrid smell persists if your dog gets sprayed by a skunk.

Additionally, thioacetates (a less potent form of thiols) are readily converted into thiols when in contact with water. This is the reason behind the smell becoming exponentially worse when a dog is washed or bathed.

Mistakes to Avoid When Your Dog Has Been Skunked

A common mistake most dog owners make when their dog has been sprayed by a skunk is washing them immediately. As mentioned above, certain components of a skunk’s spray are converted into a more potent form when it comes in contact with water. Washing the dog immediately after he’s been skunked will make the smell and the situation worse.

Another common mistake is bringing your dog inside the house to be washed. The smell from a skunk’s spray can quickly spread and permeate various surfaces and materials. Bringing a skunk-sprayed dog inside the house can make the scent stick to your furniture and linger inside the house, even long after your dog has been cleaned.

Signs That Your Dog Has Been Sprayed by a Skunk

Dogs basically show the same symptoms as humans when sprayed by a skunk. The most apparent is the foul smell from the sulfurous compounds in the spray, often persisting for a long time. Sometimes the smell is too strong and causes breathing difficulty to those affected by it.

The pungent smell can also cause nausea in dogs. In some cases, the nausea is so pronounced that dogs show signs of excessive drooling and profuse vomiting.

The spray can also be irritating to the dog’s skin and may cause rashes and excessive scratching. When it inadvertently gets into the eyes, skunk spray is a potent irritant that can cause severe conjunctivitis and scleritis in dogs. In worse cases, being sprayed directly into the eyes may cause temporary blindness.

In rare, severe cases, skunk spray can cause systemic signs of illness in dogs. It’s important to closely observe your dog for a couple of days after being sprayed, as signs of illness usually don’t show up until a few days later. Systemic illness signs seen in severe skunk-spray cases include weakness, pallor, lethargy, and loss of appetite. If any of these signs start to appear, it’s best to bring your dog to a vet immediately.

What to Do When Your Dog is Sprayed by a Skunk

1. As mentioned above, it’s a grave mistake to wash your dog with water after getting sprayed by a skunk. This will make the smell stronger and will make it stick to your dog’s coat and skin more, making cleaning up far more difficult. Cleaning must be done outside your home as the smell can stick and linger inside the house even after you’ve removed the scent from your dog’s fur and skin.

2. Wear gloves and clothing that you won’t mind getting ruined. Then, use a paper towel to remove as much of the skunk’s oil from your dog’s skin and fur as possible. But care must be taken to avoid spreading the skunk’s oil further!

3. After removing as much of the oil as manually possible, your dog needs to be washed using a solution that can effectively remove the oil and odor without making it more potent. There are many commercially available solutions that you can purchase at pet supply stores or you can make your own at home using this recipe:

  • 1 quart hydrogen peroxide solution (3%)
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon liquid dishwashing soap

If you don’t have these ingredients handy, you can bathe your dog with vinegar diluted in water. However, this isn’t as effective as the recipe listed above.

4. After washing your dog with this solution, you may bathe with a regular dog-safe shampoo, rinse with lukewarm water, and towel dry. Use caution not to get the solution in your dog’s eyes as hydrogen peroxide can be very irritating.

5. If some of the scent rubs onto your clothing, you can wash with normal laundry detergent and ¼ cup baking soda.

6. Throw away any unused solution. Storing hydrogen peroxide and baking soda solution may cause the bottle to explode.

Read more:

16 Summer Dangers for Dogs

Snake Bite Prevention and Treatment for Pets

How to Bathe Your Dog at Home

Need to speak with a veterinarian regarding your dog getting sprayed or another condition?

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Published: 7/2/2021
Last updated: 8/3/2021

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