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Skunked! 3 Home Remedies to De-Stink Your Dog

by | May 18, 2016 | Cat Behavior & Care, Dog Training & Care | 6 comments

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.

skunk

Skunks come out in spring and stink up curious dogs

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.

Blue Merle Australian Shepherd puppy, 10 weeks old, looking at Striped Skunk, Mephitis Mephitis, 5 years old, sitting in front of white background

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.

skunked dog bath

Skunked dogs require multiple sudsing and rinsing cycles.

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!

 

6 Comments

  1. Mary McCauley

    Amy, thank you for the skunked de-stinkers. My dog Skippy who lived to be almost 15 (died last July) loved to investigate the wrong thing. What a vile smell.–I think he got skunked twice. He also loved to swallow toad whole.

    • Amy Shojai

      Ew…toad juice! In some parts of the country, toads are poisonous so it’s good that wasn’t the case for Skippy.

  2. Karen Nichols

    In the last year, I’ve performed five skunk rescues. One ended up requiring a set of rabies shots. One was a dramatic rescue of a skunk trapped in a drainage hole, slowly drowning in torrential rain. We had to reach in and pull her out with gloved hands (after several failed attempts using various tools) — I was the lucky one who got to reach in and pull her out since I’d had my rabies shots by that time, and due to a TBI, I have no sense of smell. Once we got her out she looked like she was on death’s doorstep and hypothermic, so we brought her into the garage, bundled her up in a heated cat cup with a blanket and food inside a cat crate. After a couple of hours she warmed up and recovered. Happy ending. Most recently, three babies jumped in the pool. Fortunately, hubby saw them and I fished out all three with the pool scoop. They were extremely young and cute.

    One note on your stink-removal potions: we only have cats, and there have been a couple of skunk incidents (invariably because the cats really want to go up and sniff the skunks’ butts.) I can highly recommend the last recipe. It works like a charm and doesn’t contain anything that could harm a cat if he ingests it after grooming. BUT instead of the shampoo we use Dawn dishwashing liquid. There is some oil in the skunk spray, and the Dawn breaks in down completely and removes it.

    • Amy Shojai

      I also use Dawn with this skunk remedy, the times I’ve needed it with Magic. We’ve had skunk moms with babies come up on the patio and the cats have always been intrigued and wanted to meet them…through the glass window, only!

  3. Wanda

    I also use the last remedy with Dawn. Spenser, our rescued terrier mix, was chasing something in the backyard. It can behind the oil tank ( I got a good look at it then) and as I went to tell Spenser “no, leave it” he had been too quick and got sprayed. We tried to catch him before he ran into the house. He rolled all over an area rug near the front door. We wash Spenser twice with the peroxide mixture and he no longer stunk. The rug was thrown out but some of the odor must have seeped into the lamenent floor and it took over a month before it went away.

    Years ago, I had a Maine Coon.cat. I was always told that skunks do not spray cats. Whomever told me that lied. 😕 So one night the kids opened the door to let him in and he ran right into my lap. Phew, whatever it was didn’t smell like a skunk. Poor baby got it directly into his face. His eyes were all glassed over and he smelled like kerosene. I called the vet and he said that if a pet is right on top of the skunk, that it doesn’t smell skunk. I had to flush his eyes with water for a few days and bathe him. Thank goodness that he loved the water.

    • Amy Shojai

      Holy cats, Wanda, you really got a full dose of SKUNK! And yes, most cats are more savvy than dogs when it comes to skunks, but poor baby really got nailed. Thanks for sharing!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Dealing with Pet Smells? 6 Products to Clean Potty Accidents - […] ingredients that “encapsulate” the odors. This product claims to be safe for use on “skunked” pets, […]
  2. Pet Smell? 6 Pet Smell Removers for Pet Potty Accidents - […] Recently a friend complained about a horrible pet smell with her dogs, and ask about an effective pet smell…
  3. First Aid Medicine Chest: Home Remedies to Save Pet Lives - […] Massengill Disposable Douche: body odor/skunk spray […]

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