How to Remove Skunk Smell on Your Dog or Cat

July 16, 2015

skunk oakleyBy Linda Cole

Skunks don’t go looking for trouble and prefer to give us and our pets a wide berth whenever possible. Unfortunately, encounters happen and your pet may end up getting sprayed by an angry skunk. It isn’t life-threatening, but will cause a stinging sensation and can be extremely uncomfortable. Skunk spray can’t be rubbed off and is difficult to wash off. Tomato juice only masks the smell and won’t get rid of it, but there is an effective way to remove skunk smell on your dog or cat.

The putrid spray is a skunk’s primary defense and comes from large scent glands underneath the tail which contain just enough liquid for a few attacks. A skunk can accurately aim a high powered spray up to 12 feet, or release a mist for a predator to run through. It takes time for the glands to refill, so spraying is a last resort defense when skunks feel threatened.

The spray contains a sulfur compound called thiol, and humans and other animals are super sensitive to it. Skunk spray also has a chemical compound called thioacetate that slowly decomposes into thiol. This is why the spray hangs around for so long. We get the initial smell of thiol and then the lingering effect as the thioacetate breaks down. Skunk spray is hard to wash off because it’s oily and adheres to fur and clothing.

The best way to de-skunk a pet is with a solution of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and dish soap. DO NOT make and store this solution in a closed container. It could explode. Mix in an open plastic container large enough for the amount of cleaning solution needed. Adjust the recipe as needed for your pet’s size. Before mixing the solution, check for bites or other injuries and call your vet if you find any. If none are found, set up a bathing area outside, if possible, and prepare your de-skunking solution.

To 1 quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, add ¼ cup baking soda, 2 teaspoons dish soap (preferably one that cuts through grease), and 1 cup warm water. Mix well. There will be a bubbling chemical reaction between the hydrogen peroxide and baking soda. Use fresh ingredients for best results.

Lightly wet your pet’s coat with warm water, apply the solution liberally with a sponge and scrub the coat where your pet was sprayed. Wear rubber gloves and use the entire solution. Be very careful not to get the solution in your pet’s eyes, ears or mouth, because it will burn. Let it set at least five minutes – 10 minutes or longer if your pet received a direct hit. Rinse thoroughly with warm water, and finish with a regular bath. You may need to repeat the process several times to get all of the skunk smell out. The longer the skunk spray stays on, the harder it is to wash off. Reward your pet with a few CANIDAE treats after he’s been de-skunked.

Skunks are beneficial for the environment and efficient pest controllers in gardens and fields. At the urging of hop growers in New York, the first legislation to protect skunks was passed in 1893. They aren’t affected by venomous creatures and eat poisonous snakes and spiders – including black widow and recluse spiders – as well as small rodents, wasps, bees, bugs of all kinds, worms, larvae, eggs, reptiles, fish, wild fruits, grass and carrion. skunk mrhicks

These normally solitary nocturnal animals hunt at dusk and dawn. However, a mama with kits will hunt during the day when predators are less active so she can be with her babies at night to protect them. They don’t hibernate and will dig burrows, but usually move into abandoned dens made by other animals or find a home inside hollow logs or trees, under rocks, porches, in barns or any dry and secure place. Females living in colder climates sometimes den together for warmth.

Hopefully you won’t need to remove skunk smell from your dog or cat, but sometimes an encounter can’t be avoided. Skunks are mild mannered critters, but they will defend themselves from a curious pet if they feel threatened.

Top photo by OakleyOriginals/Flickr
Bottom photo by MrHicks46/Flickr

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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