smelly dog

Every dog gets a little stinky from time to time – they aren’t exactly known for their discretion when it comes to rolling in something rotten, after all. A dog who has been skunked, however, is a totally different ball game. 

We’ve seen our share of skunked dogs here at Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital, and we’d like to share our tried and true tips for remedying this stinky situation.

The Down and Dirty Details

Skunks spray their stink from their anal sacs, located just inside their rectum. Their anal sacs, unlike those of dogs and cats, can be expressed on demand and with stunning accuracy. 

Skunk spray is an oily substance that contains loads of smelly thiols and slightly less stinky thioacetates. Both of these compounds are very good and binding to the proteins on the skin. As a bonus, thioacetates turn into stinkier thiols when you add water, so trying to scrub often makes the situation worse. 

The good news is that skunks don’t spray just because they feel like it. They are actually pretty passive and only spray if they feel scared and their warnings are not heeded. This means that there is a lot that you can do to prevent your pet from being skunked. 

  • Never let your pet pester wildlife – skunk or otherwise.
  • Supervise your pet closely at dawn and dusk, particularly in warmer months when skunks are most active.
  • Do not provide skunk food sources such as accessible garbage, compost, or pet food.
  • Remove potential skunk habitats like brush piles, wood piles, and tree stumps.

Skunked! Now What?

If your pet has been skunked, it is important to stay calm and take note of how your pet reacts. Typically skunk spray is harmless, but if your pet has been sprayed in the eyes, nose, or mouth, though, they may need some medical attention. Skunk spray can be very irritating and ingestion can cause nausea or vomiting. Call us right away if your pet has been sprayed in these areas or if they are overdue on their rabies vaccination (skunks are a rabies carrier).

After you are sure that your pet is okay, it is time to work on the smell. Skunk smell sticks to everything, so be sure to avoid allowing your pet access to furniture, rugs, or other areas that might hold the odor. 

When trying to de-skunk a skunked pet, remember that water is not your friend! Removal of the odor depends on breaking down the oils effectively. Our grooming department is happy to help, but if you can’t wait for normal business hours, you can try this effective DIY mixture:

  • 1 quart 3% hydrogen peroxide
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of dishwashing detergent

Applying this concoction to your pet’s coat will help to break down the oily secretions and neutralize the thiols in the skunk spray (although beware, the peroxide may bleach a dark coat). You may need to make several passes to effectively remove the odor.