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My Dog Got Sprayed by a Skunk! What to Do

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Nothing inspires more sympathy (and dread) in the hearts of pet parents than the stench that signals a dog got sprayed by a skunk! The endless baths, the lingering aroma, the potential health impact…it’s a lot for anyone to deal with.

But, don’t worry. Whether your pup just got a snootful of stinky skunk spray or you’d like to brush up on how to handle future run-ins, we’ve got you covered. 

In this helpful guide, we’ll explain how to get rid of skunk smells on your dog, deodorize your home, protect your pet’s health, avoid repeat encounters, and more.

Ready to dig in? Here’s what every pet parent needs to know about dealing with a skunk-sprayed dog.

Dog Sprayed by Skunk 101

Contrary to their fearsome reputation, skunks are generally shy, passive creatures, content to live and let live. However, when they feel threatened, they can release a foul-smelling spray so potent, that most predators prefer to run away rather than tangle with the stink!

What is a skunk spray?

Skunk spray is actually an oil made of chemical compounds that turn into gas when released from the anal glands. Two of these compounds—thiols and thioacetates—contain the sulfur atoms responsible for that unmistakable skunky smell.

How far can skunks spray?

Skunks deploy their spray to keep potential predators far away. They can target and hit targets up to 15 feet away with their spray. But the odor spreads far beyond the blast zone. Those with sensitive noses can detect it up to 20 miles away.

How long does skunk smell last?

The sulfur atoms contained in skunk spray bond strongly with other types of atoms. It’s why the smell can so easily permeate fur, hair, skin, and clothing…and then linger for what seems like ages. 

In reality, skunk smells typically last “only” a few weeks or so, depending on the intensity of the blast and how long the oils sit on surfaces. The odor will dissipate over time, especially if treated with odor-combatting solutions or cleaning agents.

Are skunks dangerous?

Most skunk encounters amount to little more than a smelly inconvenience for you and your pet. However, getting sprayed by a skunk can be harmful to your dog’s health. In rare cases, it could even be fatal.

“When a dog gets sprayed by a skunk, the most common area is the face, as the dog is sniffing and approaching the skunk head first,” says Dr. Jared Pitt, DVM, from Heart + Paw in Marlton, New Jersey. 

This can cause your dog to react in much the same way a human would react to tear gas. According to Dr. Pitt, symptoms include red eyes; sneezing; wheezing; hacking; and face rubbing, Temporary blindness is another potential side effect.

Though it’s very rare, dogs that ingest or inhale enough skunk spray may suffer damage to their red blood cells, which could cause anemia, says Dr. Pitt. Symptoms develop within 24 hours and include decreased energy and appetite; yellow-tinged skin and gums; a distended tummy; vomiting; and labored breathing. 

The condition can be life-threatening. “In that case, they would need veterinary attention for supportive care, potentially including blood transfusions,” Dr. Pitt says.

Dog Got Sprayed By Skunk: What to Do

Though it can be hard to keep your cool in the aftermath of a skunk encounter, your dog is depending on you! Here’s what to do first for your skunk-sprayed pup to ensure their health, safety, and comfort.

First, check for injuries

Though any skunk run-in is likely to, well…stink, the smell could be the least of your worries. Skunks deploy their spray to keep potential predators far away. And, since they can target threats up to 15 feet away, a long-distance blast is enough to convince most dogs to run away, escaping relatively unscathed (albeit stinky).

However, if your dog tangles with a skunk up close and personal, they can suffer more serious injuries, such as: 

Eye injuries – Dogs that get sprayed by a skunk at close range are more likely to show signs of physical distress, especially if the spray gets into their eyes or mouth.  In these cases, Dr. Klein recommends calling your veterinarian for guidance.

If your dog’s symptoms are serious, your vet may direct you to bring your dog in or head to an emergency vet clinic. However, “If the spray is not causing serious distress to your dog, owners are advised to handle the situation on their own,” says Dr. Klein.

For eye irritation, Dr. Klein recommends gently rinsing your dog’s eyes repeatedly with lukewarm water. This is “most easily done by saturating cotton balls with water and gently squeezing the water out into the dog’s eyes,” he says.  

Skunk bite wounds – Although it’s rare, skunks may bite when startled, cornered, or if your dog gets close enough. So, after a skunk encounter, examine your dog for bite marks, which sometimes appear in pairs showing the top and bottom teeth, says Dr. Kllein. 

If you find a bite mark, contact your vet immediately, says Dr. Pitt. “The dog should be evaluated for wound care and vaccinated against rabies,” he recommends.

Next, how to get skunk smell off dog

Once you’ve confirmed your dog is unharmed, it’s time to tackle the skunky funk! 

Despite what you may have heard, tomato juice isn’t all that effective when it comes to deodorizing your skunk-sprayed dog, says Dr. Klein. (Plus, it’s messy.) “Vinegar solutions may work better but are still relatively ineffective,” he notes.

Instead, Dr. Klein recommends pet parents use a commercial cleaning product specifically designed to combat skunk odor, such as Thornell’s Skunk-Off Pet Shampoo or Skunk-Off Liquid Soaker. Both work to remove the odor instead of just masking it.

“It is best to order one ahead of time just in case your dog gets skunked,” Dr. Klein says. You can often buy them directly from your veterinarian or at emergency vet clinics, as well. 

Many of these products are specially formulated to be pet-safe, yet incredibly effective at neutralizing skunk smells. Just be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to get the best results. 

If you’re in a pinch, you can mix up your own deodorizing solution to remove the skunk smell from your dog, says Dr. Klein.

Simply combine these common household products:

  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1-2 teaspoons of dishwashing detergent
  • 1 quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide solution

Once you’ve mixed the solution, Dr Klein recommends applying it immediately to your dog and working the mixture well into the coat. Leave it on for five minutes, then rinse thoroughly. Dr. Klein says it’s a good idea to follow up by bathing your dog with a normal dog shampoo.

Be aware that using this DIY skunk solution requires special precautions. 

  • Avoid sensitive areas. “Never use solutions that contain hydrogen peroxide around the eyes or apply them in the mouth,” says Dr. Klein. Peroxide can also bleach a dog’s fur, especially if it’s dark brown or black, Dr. Klein adds.
  • Dispose properly. Pour the solution down the drain with added water once you’re done, says Dr. Pitt. “This shampoo cannot be bottled due to chemical reactions between the peroxide and baking soda, so a new batch will need to be made per bath.”

How Many Baths Does a Dog Spayed by a Skunk Need?

Whether you use a commercial skunk shampoo or a homemade solution, don’t be surprised if your dog needs more than one bath to truly dispel the smell.

As many pet parents can attest, skunk smells often return with a vengeance when a skunk-sprayed dog gets wet. So it’s best to err on the side of caution and wash or treat your dog several times to remove skunk oils. 

“Like other oils, skunk oil doesn’t mix well with water,” says Dr. Jerry Klein, DVM, chief veterinary officer for the American Kennel Club. “Skunk secretion becomes more pungent when an animal is wet,” he warns. 

With some dogs, it takes just one bath to remove the smell, while others may need several rounds. A rule of thumb? “As many as it takes for the dog to smell like a wet dog rather than a dog sprayed by a skunk. Some dogs may require more bathing than others,” says Dr. Pitt.

Skunked Dog Prevention Tips

It’s much more effective to prevent skunk encounters if you can than do damage control afterward. Here are some tips to help you keep your dog safe and skunky smells out of your home.

Supervise your dog when outdoors

Dogs don’t understand that skunks can spray or bite, so it’s up to us to protect them. Skunks will usually issue warnings, whether by hissing, arching their tail, or stamping their feet, says Dr. Klein. “Though many young or inexperienced dogs will be unaware of what these signs and warnings mean,” he adds.

You may also want to consider adjusting your walking schedule. “Skunks usually are more prevalent in warmer months of the year and encounters usually occur near dawn or dusk when the skunks are foraging for food,” says Dr. Klein.

Skunk-proof your backyard, as best you can

Keep all garbage and food items well contained in closed garbage containers, recommends Dr. Klein. “And try to reduce or block any entrance to sheds or garages that may be open to prevent skunks from congregating.”

If you live in an area with an abundance of wildlife, using some form of humane skunk repellant might be beneficial. According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, placing orange or lemon peels around the yard or bars of strong-smelling soap near your garden may help keep skunks at bay.

Ensure your dog’s rabies vaccination is up-to-date

Although getting bitten by a skunk isn’t as common as getting sprayed, it can happen. And skunks can carry rabies, says Dr. Klein. “So it is imperative to have dogs and cats up to date on their rabies vaccinations, even pets that never leave their yard.”