Well, that Stinks! What to do When Your Dog Gets Sprayed by a Skunk

Common skunk. Photo by Lee Ruk via Flickr.Skunk. A single word that fills even the most intrepid dog owner with dread. The smell, the nightmare of getting it off, the waste of perfectly good tomato juice… Let’s face it, nothing about your dog getting sprayed by a skunk is pleasant. Unfortunately, one of our own dogs was the victim of a quite vigorous skunking (in her face, no less!) this past weekend, which sent us to the good old internet to see what we could find for a treatment. What we found was a wealth of information and a course of action that made a huge difference for poor Lucy! We’re sharing what we learned here to help you should you find your own pup in this predicament.

About skunks

Skunks are a member of their own unique animal family, but are believed to be related to the weasel family as well (ferrets, weasels, otters, badgers, stoats, and wolverines). They are omnivores, eating both meat and vegetation, and are crepuscular in nature, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk. They live in dens that they dig in the ground, and go into semi-hibernation in the colder months. They are most active during the spring and summer, when the weather is warmest. This time of year is prime time for skunks.

Skunks are generally non-aggressive animals that prefer flight to fight; however, when threatened, they are capable of spraying an incredibly foul-smelling substance a distance of up to 16 feet. This stinky spray is a thick, yellow, oily compound that is degraded from urine and released from scent glands located on either side of their back end. The principle component of this stinky secretion is called mercaptan (when you win Jeopardy by knowing that, let us know!), and contains sulfur – hence the stench. In fact, mercaptan is added to odor-free natural gases to that we can tell if we’ve sprung gas leaks in our stoves or furnaces.

When a skunk is preparing to spray, it will arch its back, raise his tail high, and begin hissing and stomping his feet on the ground. He may even do headstands with his back and tail arched towards the intruder. When he actually sprays, he will bend into a U-shape, with his head and back end facing the intruder, and let ‘er rip, aiming his spray primarily at the intruder’s face.

As a result, animals that get sprayed by skunks tend to take the brunt of it in their face. This should not cause permanent damage, but make sure to keep an eye on your pet’s eyes, nose, and mouth for a few days. If redness, irritation, and/or secretions occur, make sure to get your pet to a vet right away.

OK, but my dog already got skunked. Now what?

Dog not happy about his skunk bath. Photo by Oakley Originals via Flickr.If your dog found himself on the business end of a skunk, time is absolutely of the essence. The longer the spray sits, the more it sets and the harder it is to get out. If not properly treated, the odor can last for months (or longer!) If your groomer is open, give them a call and see if they can arrange an emergency appointment. If that’s not possible, then here’s a DIY solution for you.

First things first, change into some old clothes that you don’t mind getting rid of after, as they’re going to smell to high heavens. Washing the clothes will not remove all of the skunk oil and may leave a skunk oil residue in the washing machine. Yuck! Also, throw on a pair of rubber or latex dish gloves or something similar; you don’t want to get the skunk spray on your hands.

Despite what you’ve heard, save the tomato juice for a Bloody Mary; it’s ineffective at best, and can stain your pup’s coat at worst. There are several store-bought enzymatic sprays you can use to get rid of skunk spray on a dog, such as Nature’s Miracle® Skunk Odor Remover. But of course, we rarely have something like this on hand when we need it, so just follow the steps below for a clean, fresh, stink- and discoloration-free dog.

1. Sequester your dog outside. The last thing you want is that stink getting in the house. The skunk oil can be transferred to rugs, upholstery, and other items in the house, and it can last for quite a while.

2. Put on clothes that you can throw away later and protective rubber or latex gloves.

3. Check your dog for cuts and scratches caused by the animal; if you find any, skip the rest of these steps and bring your dog to the vet ASAP.

4. Prepare for an outdoor bath. Get a tub if need be, towels you don’t mind throwing out after, the hose, and a helper if possible.

5. DON’T HOSE YOUR DOG DOWN RIGHT AWAY! This can make the stink worse and make it harder to get off. Also, if your dog has any cuts or cracks in his skin, this could rinse the skunk spray into them and cause pain, burning, and irritation and could lead to skin problems down the road.

6. Apply a bit of eye lubricant or 1-2 drops of mineral oil to your dog’s eyes. This will protect the eyes in case you get any water or other substances in them during the cleaning process.

7. Mix up the following in an OPEN container (as it creates a chemical reaction and could EXPLODE in a closed container):

- 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide (check the expiration date!)
- ¼ cup baking soda
- 1 teaspoon of strong liquid soap, such as Dawn dishwashing detergent

For larger dogs, you can also add some lukewarm water to the mixture. DO NOT use a higher concentration of hydrogen peroxide; it can burn the dog’s skin. Also, make sure both the hydrogen peroxide and baking soda are as fresh as possible. If either has been sitting in the cabinet or fridge for months, it’s best to run out to the pharmacy and pick up some fresh supplies (as they can break down over time and lose their effectiveness).

8. Locate the area(s) where the dog got sprayed. Wet the area(s) with the solution and thoroughly massage the solution into the coat. An old sponge works well for this. Be careful not to spread it to other areas as you’re massaging, as the skunk spray is oily and spreads easily.  The oil is what makes it so difficult to remove.

9. If your dog got sprayed in the face, you can apply the mixture to a cloth and wash the dog’s face that way, being careful to avoid the eyes, nose, and mouth. See the video below for a how-to on getting skunk spray off your dog’s face and chest.

10. Let the mixture sit for 5-10 minutes, then thoroughly rinse the dog off with lukewarm water.

11. Repeat steps 7-10 until the stink is gone.

12. Dry your pup well and give him a treat – or several!

13. Run to the pet store and pick up some skunk odor removal spray to have on hand in case this happens again. Also, take a look around your yard and identify places skunks are likely to hide, so you know where to keep your dog away from in the future.

14. If you find a spot in the yard that has been saturated in skunk spray, it is probably a good idea to restrict your pet from that area until the odor is gone. The oiliness of the spray allows it to linger and it could end up on your pet again if he/she plays in that area. If you have a Hidden Fence system, your local Dealer can help you create a temporary ‘avoidance zone.’

15. Make sure to not leave trash out overnight when possible, as this can also attract skunks.

Important to note

Skunk spray has been linked to incidences of various anemias in dogs due to some of the compounds in it. Watch your dog carefully for 3-5 days after it was sprayed, looking for lethargy, weakness, and/or discolored urine. If you note any of the above, bring the dog to the vet ASAP.


Our information came from these great articles:
How to Remove the Skunk Smell from Dogs by Jenna Stregowski, RVT
What to Do When Your Dog Has Been Skunked by Dr. Dawn Ruben

Photo credits (top to bottom):
Oakley Originals via Flickr
Lee Ruk via Flickr

Posted in Challenges, Dog Grooming, Dog Healthcare
26 comments on “Well, that Stinks! What to do When Your Dog Gets Sprayed by a Skunk
  1. David Conrad says:

    Thank you for posting this most helpful information. We were lucky enough to have all necessary ingredients on hand to make the potion (at 4 am). I have to admit that I was a little skeptical at first but it worked surprisingly well. I wish we had known about the potion when my Dad and Uncle got sprayed! Ha, I’ve never seen anybody (before or since) jump out of their clothes so fast! Also appreciate the anemia heads up.
    Thanks again!

    • Admin says:

      You’re very welcome David! Good to hear that we were able to help your dog–sorry we were too late for your family members, haha.

  2. Michael Naffziger says:

    Thank you so much!!!! for this tutorial on what to do when your dog gets SKUNKED! My German Shepard was sprayed late last night and this information came in very handy!

    • Admin says:

      Glad to hear that our blog could be of help to you! Make sure to stay tuned for additional posts in the future!

  3. Kourtney says:

    Does peroxide damage the fur on the animals

  4. Ttae says:

    My dog got sprayed in the face this helped so much. I was crying for 10 minutes until I found this. Thank you

  5. This recipe worked fabulously. My Old English Bulldog got sprayed in the face as I watched in horror. The skunk walked down the sidewalk in broad daylight. Out of the corner of my eye I thought it was a cat. Nope, my 8 month old puppy went to say “hi” and right in the mouth and face it got sprayed. Smell is nearly gone with two pastes from your recipe.

    Thanks a million for sharing!

  6. Jacqui says:

    I would just like to give a huge thank you for this recipe and video! I got home from work around 11 last night, let my dog out to do her business as usual and she was sprayed right in the face. Luckily I had all the ingredients laying around and this morning you wouldn’t even know she was sprayed! Thank you so much this was a life saver!!

  7. kim conover says:

    I have used this solution too many times to count. But here is one tip that can cut the stink by more than half if you do first. We keep the ashes from the woodstove just for this purpose. As soon as we know the dog got skunked- and it is almmost always on the face- apply wood ash very gently and carefully , starting at your dogs head (chances are it will be the area to concentrate on) rub the wood ash into the dog’s fur. It will help identify the area of saturation but most of all, the wood ash will absorb alot of the skunk oil. I apply it heavily, wait 10 minutes allowing the ash to absorb as much of the oil as possible. Allow the dog to shake it off and apply again after 10 minutes. Again, wait a few minutes and allow the dog to shake off as much as possible. It is practically miraculous the amount of stench this cuts even before you begin the baking soda/ peroxide bath. We’ve had dogs for over 20 years and have used the peroxide recipe on it’s own. It helps, but the addition of wood ash made the biggest difference. As with the wet solurion, take the same precautions with your dogs eyes, nose and mouth.

  8. kim conover says:

    Vinegar is an excellent substitute for the peroxide if you do not have any on hand. Chances are, because of skunks nocturnal nature, it will happen over night and stores may be closed so make sure to have plenty of supplies on hand if you live in an area where you know skunks are known to reside.

  9. al pacheco says:

    This didnt work so well so i drove to the vet and they sold me some stuff called skunk off! It works awsome! I also put some in the laundry and the smell is gone!

  10. jawaca says:

    This was such a help when our dog got sprayed at 1 AM last night….we did 3 rounds of this with her shampoo and it has worked marvelously. Going to keep lots of hydrogen peroxide around now.

  11. Jenny and Hadley says:

    Thanks that totally worked we have been trying to get the smell out for almost a week now, and right after it only smelled like a wet dog!!!

  12. jamie says:

    Thank u so much! My dog just got sprayed at 1 am and I used the portion and it got almost all of the smell out. He got sprayed in the face as well! Now I have to make the house smell better! Lol

  13. James coric says:

    Thanks for the help. Really “stinks” at 430am when trying to get ready for work. As soon as we opened front door and my Great Dane took two steps out, bam he took it good. Gonna have to have a talk with wife about putting a bag right outside the front door full of garbage. Lol. Thanks again

  14. Hector James says:

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, AND BELLA OUR AUSTRALIAN SHEEP HERDER THANKS YOU.

    HJC

  15. Carmen says:

    Just want to say thank you my dog was sprayed in the face and we were desperate, I did a quick search and found your page, your solution really works! One time is all it took so thank you

  16. Momma to Crickett says:

    Thank God for your webpage!!! 5:15 am run to the grocery store to pick up the ingredients. We were panicked as to what to do when our little miniature pincher, who is smaller than the skunk, got sprayed. Thank you!!!!

  17. John Mularoni says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. Our family dog (a mini-pin -dachshund) got sprayed at 3:30 am this morning when my son put her out and she went right after a skunk. She didn’t like it, but we didn’t like it much more. Found your site, had the indigents on hand, worked GREAT!!!. Was able to get to bed at 5:30 with a nearly smell free dog. Great post!

  18. Jeremy says:

    Thank you so much for sharing the info. I too watched in shock as my dog was sprayed in the face at three o’clock in the morning. Your info was priceless thanks for sharing

  19. Evelyn Axelrad says:

    Thank you for the recipe!
    After a trip to Safeway at 2:30 am to get the peroxide and baking soda, a long rubbing down and shower, many treats for my Lab, two cups of coffee for me – It is now 4am and I think we are out of the woods stink-wise.
    Lesson for me- keep peroxide handy. Lesson for my furry companion? I wish that we’re as easy to impart – to stay the heck away from from those nasty little critters.

  20. P. Tompkins says:

    You and that solution are lifesavers. Our dog was sprayed tonight when, of course, the pet store was closed, so I immediately went online to find a solution,and thank God I came across your blog. My dog smells great now. Thanks again.

  21. kate says:

    my beagle got sprayed in the face about 10 days ago. He ran into the house and my husband threw him into the bath. The smell was horrible and throughout the house. I stayed up and cleaned the entire house desperately because my sons 4th bday party was in 2 days. However my beagle still smells…will this mixture help this far out?

    • Admin says:

      Kate, based on our experience and the comments of others, this recipe usually works to reduce the smell, although it may take several applications. Best of luck to you and your beagle.

  22. Shannon says:

    Thank you for this awesome tip! Our dog just got sprayed in the face as we were getting ready for bed. Thankfully, we had all ingredients on-hand and were able to bathe him immediately. I could tell the difference right away. This was incredibly helpful- thank you!

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