Karma-Kat loves watching the bunnies that play out on the back patio so I wasn’t concerned when he began chattering with excitement—until I noticed THIS bunny had a long fluffy black and white tail. Yes, a skunk has set up housekeeping next to our house. Hoo boy. And dogs seem to love getting skunked.
SKUNKED DOGS & REPEAT OFFENDERS
Last year around this time, Magical-Dawg found a skunk—again. We’ve had to de-stink him several times over the years, and one summer he got “blasted” three separate times. You’d think dogs would learn after one skunk encounter, but time after time he sticks his nose in rude places and gets rewarded with skunky consequences. So last week after my husband noticed one of the cute lil’ black and white critters wandering around in the back pasture, we’ve since then made sure Magic is under leash control until the coast is clear.
I suspect that the heavy rains have evicted many little black and white furry families from their heir homes. This one Magic found pretty close to the house, rather than the distant field that’s on pretty low (currently soggy) ground. Usually hunting dogs get nailed most often since they’re exposed to wildlife as they hunt. But hungry skunks won’t hesitate to munch pet food left out and can even sneak into your house (yikes!) through a pet door.
Dogs aren’t dumb. Well, most are not…so you’d think they’d learn from one (or two, or five!) encounters. Yet the dogs continue to push the sniff-envelope and continue to get nailed. It’s not entirely their fault, even though skunks give fair warning with stomped feet, turning around and holding the tail high. But this elevated tail poised to launch its smelly cargo sends mixed signals to pets.
WHY DOGS GET SKUNKED
Skunks have musk glands on each side of the anus. These glands are equipped with retractable ducts. They can take aim and spray the stink a distance of 10 to 15 feet, so even standoffish pets are liable to get nailed.
A straight-up tail is a greeting behavior for cats, and for dogs a high-held wagging tail begs for a greeting sniff. The skunk has shown the equivalent of a dog offering to shake hands, and gets his feelings hurt when he misunderstands the skunk’s invitation. It’s simple mis-communication.
Why Smelly Dogs Smell So Bad
Skunk spray contains thiols, an organic compound composed of a sulfur atom attached to a hydrogen atom attached to a carbon atom. The same types of compounds create stinky breath or flatulence. Thiols have a lingering rotten egg odor, and the skunk’s oily secretion makes it difficult to get rid of. Skunk spray is so pungent, a concentration of one in 10 parts per billion can make humans gag. Just think how obnoxious or downright painful the smell is to your pet’s nose.
A bath alone generally won’t do the job on your smelly dog. The oily secretions can be difficult to wash away, and the thiols are impossible to perfume or wash off. Usually a commercial de-skunking solution will be needed, one that incorporates odor neutralizers specially designed to eliminate the pungent aroma.
Perform clean up outside, too, or you’ll need to deodorize your entire house after scrubbing the pet. Wear comfortable, disposable old clothes and gloves because your dog will transfer odor to you during the bathing process. Trust me on this!
Oh, and do NOT let the dog back into the house until after the bath. Otherwise, you’ll have to deal with the skunk smell in the air and potentially your carpet and furniture when the dog tries to rub off the odor. The last time this happened I got a Fresh Wave candle burning, and a CritterZone odor neutralizer running in addition to spritzing odor neutralizers around the kitchen.
3 SKUNKED DOG HOME REMEDIES
What if you don’t have handy-dandy products available that are designed to keep skunk smell at bay? Here are a few options.
Tomato Juice. A tried and true home remedy is a tomato juice soak. Wash your puppy first with pet shampoo and towel him dry. Then douse him with the juice and let it soak for ten or fifteen minutes. Rinse him off and suds again with the regular shampoo. Alternate the tomato juice soak with the shampoo bath until he’s less pungent. Be warned, though, that white and light colored pets may turn temporarily pink from this treatment.
Massengill Douche. Professional groomers often recommend Massengill brand douche to get rid of skunk odor. Mix two ounces of Massengill to a gallon of water for small dogs—double the recipe for bigger pups—and pour over the washed pet. Let the solution soak for at least fifteen minutes. Then rinse with plain water, and bathe with normal shampoo once more.
Chemistry Cure. You can also use chemistry to neutralize the thiols. Mix one quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide with ¼ cup of baking soda, and one teaspoon of pet shampoo (any kind will work). Apply to the pet’s wet fur, allow the mix to bubble for three or four minutes, then rinse thoroughly. This recipe, created by chemist Paul Krebaum, works better than anything on the market. You can’t buy it, though, because the formula can’t be bottled. It explodes if left in a closed container. So if your pet is skunked, mix only one application at a time. Otherwise you’ll be cleaning up more than just the pet.
What about the skunk under our patio? Well, she (yes, it’s obviously a SHE) will be there for the foreseeable future. I watched her dive under the AC unit that’s probably been flooded out, and come out carrying a baby. She carried baby skunk to the new digs (pun intended) beneath the patio, out of the rain. And she repeated the maneuver at least two more times. Magic won’t be using the back door anytime soon.
Meanwhile, Karma has a new black and white “bunny” friend. I think I’ll call her Susie.
Have you or your pets ever been skunked? Ever had wildlife move into your neighborhood? Do tell!
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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!