What To Do If Your Dog Gets Skunked

A golden retriever lays on a deck chair around a pool.

There’s no mistaking the awful aroma. You open the back door to let your dog in after his last wander around the yard before bed and get hit in the face with the overpowering, eye-watering smell. Your dog was sprayed by a skunk.

Eau de skunked dog is an unwelcome fragrance familiar to many dog owners and dreaded by those lucky enough to have dodged the experience so far. Read on to learn how to get skunk smell out of your dog, as well as steps you can take to prevent the olfactory fiasco in the first place.

How To Remove Skunk Smell From Your Dog

The first thing to do is close the house door. If your dog gets inside, he’s going to try to escape the noxious fumes by rubbing himself all over your furniture and rugs and you’ll have a much bigger cleanup job on your hands. Hopefully he was wearing a dog collar to help you quickly gain a measure of control and help him calm down.

Next, check your dog’s eyes. If they appear red or irritated, some of the spray could have gotten in them and you should flush them out with cool water immediately. Also check your dog for bite marks or scratches. If you find any serious wounds from the tussle with the skunk, you should bring him to the veterinarian immediately.

Don’t be tempted to rinse off your dog with water. This process is different than a routine dog bath. Skunk spray is made up of oils and thiols, chemicals that contain sulfur and account for the telltale stench. Rinsing your dog with water alone will only spread the smelly oil across a larger area of your dog’s coat.

Quick Tip: Resist the urge to run to the store for a cart full of tomato juice. The effectiveness of this age-old remedy is minimal. The acid will cut through some of the oil, but the tomato juice will only mask the smell temporarily and the odor will return.

The liquid that does the best job neutralizing the skunk scent and cleaning the oil completely away is this simple, homemade solution and process:

  • 1 quart – 3 percent hydrogen peroxide
  • ¼ cup – baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon – liquid dishwashing soap

(Be aware – This mixture should never be mixed and stored in advance as it is volatile and could explode if left in a closed bottle or container.)

Note on Washing Skunk Smell Out of Dog Collars: You can also use this solution to clean some collars, but results may vary on different materials. First, test the solution on a small area of the collar and rinse clean to make sure it will not damage the collar. Leather collars may require saddle oil. Nylon collars can be rinsed outside, then washed in a machine washer on hot with regular laundry detergent, then allowed to air dry.

After you’ve mixed all of the ingredients together, put on a pair of rubber gloves and rub your dog’s coat thoroughly with the solution, being extra careful to avoid the eyes. The sooner you are able to do this following the skunking, the better. Once you’ve rubbed the mixture throughout your dog’s coat, rinse it out quickly and completely. Follow up with your regular dog grooming routine and tools, giving your dog a thorough shampoo, rinse off, dry, and brush. If it was a truly close encounter and your dog got the full dose of skunk spray, you may need to rinse and repeat.

The final steps – enjoy the sweet-smelling reunion and revel in the joy of actually wanting to be near your best friend for the first time since your malodorous adventure began.

Where Do Skunks Live?

Skunks are gentle, shy mammals whose range is primarily North America, except for the stink badger, which lives in Asia. They are found in country, suburban, and urban settings. Aside from their offensive smell, they are beneficial creatures to have around because their omnivorous diet includes insects and rodents.

They like to den in fallen logs, rock piles, or in the abandoned dens of other animals.

Why Do Skunks Spray?

Averaging about the size of a house cat, skunks are easy to recognize because of their contrasting black-and-white patterns, which can be striped, spotted or swirled, depending on the variety. Their vivid coats evolved to alert would-be predators to their most infamous characteristic – their ability to spray an oily liquid from a gland under their tail a distance of up to ten feet.

Most people and predators heed the “Back off or your nose gets it” message emblazoned on skunks’ coats and keep their distance. For those who don’t, skunks give further fair warning of the impending spray by raising their tail high, hissing, and stamping their feet. This is where your best friend’s inquisitive nature gets him in trouble. Dogs are notoriously unable to take the hint when it comes to skunks. They’ll chase after them, bark, and not back down until they are sprayed, often smack in the face.

How To Prevent Your Dog From Getting Sprayed By A Skunk

The best way to keep your dog from getting skunked is to ensure the critters don’t den on your property. To make your backyard less appealing to a skunk, close garbage cans tight and, if your dog eats al fresco, take the bowl back inside as soon as he is finished. Skunks are opportunistic eaters who won’t be able to resist these easy pickings.

Open spaces under porches, elevated sheds, open garages, and rock and wood piles are also appealing real estate for dens, so do your best to keep those areas closed off. Skunk dens are characterized by a depression dug in the dirt, cleared of grass and foliage, leading down into a space under a rock or wood pile, or beneath a covered space such as a porch or shed.

What To Do If A Skunk Moves Into Your Yard

The do-nothing approach:

  • May, June and July are when baby skunks arrive, so hold off any eviction proceedings until you know there are no little ones in the den.
  • Consider doing nothing no matter the time of year. Eventually skunks will mosey on of their own accord and you can block off the den entrance at that time to ensure another skunk doesn’t move in.

The “mild harassment” approach:

  • Here the idea is to become a lousy neighbor to your musky resident. One option is loosely packing the entrance to the skunk’s den with leaves repeatedly. Another is setting up bright lights and directing noise towards the dark, quiet den for a few hours before nightfall. Skunks are mellow creatures who will soon go in search of another home that isn’t always bright, noisy, and mysteriously blocked by leaves.

Skunks are crepuscular creatures, which means they are most active around dawn and dusk. If you live in an area where you get the telltale whiff of skunk from time to time, it’s best to avoid letting your dog out in the yard and keep walks to a minimum during these transitional hours. If you must take your dog for a walk at daybreak or twilight, keep the walk brief and don’t give your dog loose rein to snuffle around hedges and wooded areas where skunk encounters are most likely. When letting your dog out in the yard at night, turn on the lights and make a little noise before letting your best friend out so critters have the chance to skedaddle.

If you do spot a skunk, keep your distance, hold your dog close, and slowly back away. Pick up the pace a little if you notice any of the warning signs mentioned above. When you are beyond the skunk’s ten-foot spray range – take a deep breath because you and your best friend are in the clear.

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