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SKUNKED! Solving Skunk Stink

by | May 26, 2015 | Dog Training & Care | 4 comments

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

It’s not just clueless puppies that get skunked! Image courtesy of DepositPhotos.com

It happened again—Magical-Dawg found a skunk, at about 6:30 a.m. on Monday. A day later, and the smell lingers in the house. 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. One summer, he was skunked 3 times in as many weeks, yikes!

How to Solve Skunk Stink

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.

My husband has morning dog duty, so he saw it happen—and then decided to bring Magic IN THE HOUSE to tell me about it. Urk! Nothing like eau de wet dog + skunk to start off your morning right. Even Karma-Kat objected, his tiny little nose wiggling and his kitty face wearing an appalled expression.

Once hit, Magic typically rolls around to get rid of the smell. A direct hit in the eyes can cause temporary blindness but he’s been lucky so far. Of course, with all the rain we’ve had, the rolling added wet mud-puppy to the equation.

Why Dogs Get Skunked—Again & Again

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.

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 Skunks Stink

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.

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.

Eliminating Skunk Odor

A bath alone generally won’t do the job. 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. Currently I’ve got a Fresh Wave candle burning, and spritzed odor neutralizers around the kitchen.

What if you don’t have handy-dandy products available that are designed to keep skunk smell at bay? Here are a few options.

3 Home Remedies for Skunk Stink

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. I like this option so much, I included it in my book The First Aid Companion for Dogs and Cats. Here’s what to do:

  1. Mix one quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide with ¼ cup of baking soda, and one teaspoon of pet shampoo (any kind will work).
  2. Apply to the pet’s DRY fur.
  3. Allow the mix to bubble for three or four minutes.
  4. Rinse thoroughly.
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 until odor is gone.

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 you? Has something have ever skunked your dog? More than once? How did you solve the stink? I suspect Magic likes the aftermath of getting to play hose tag with the water!

Oh…and if my husband brings a skunked dog in the house again, he’s likely to get hose-tagged, too!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

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!

4 Comments

  1. Wayne Borean aka The Mad Hatter

    Ouch. Poor Magic!\

  2. Patricia

    Great info on skunks. Me and my cousin were chasing one when we were kids and I was the lucky recipient of it’s fragrant odor. I remember my mother using tomato juice. She was not a happy camper. That video of Magic kills me. I can’t figure out which he loves more – water or frisbees??? LOL

    • Amy Shojai

      I would be so upset to get skunked myself! I still think I’m smelling it

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  1. Saint Spot Syndrome and Bravo! a Magical Legacy & Shelter Adoption Day - […] summer he seemed determined to make friends with the local skunk population — three times in a month! His…

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