What to do if your dog gets skunked

You’ve been wondering why your dog is always sniffing and barking at the hedge in the back of the yard.  Now you know.   At 5:30 this morning, he yelped and flew past you like a rocket…and THE SMELL!  He’s been skunked!

Dog in a bathtub

No one likes cleaning up after a skunk spraying.

Skunks are everywhere—in the country, the suburbs and in the city.   That unmistakable smell is their defense mechanism.  When threatened, skunks can blast their oily sulfur stink up to 15 feet–with a high level of accuracy.  Unfortunately, many curious canines get sprayed with skunk juice right in the face.  The smell aside, the spray can cause irritation and even temporary blindness.  
So…back to you, still standing there in your house shoes with your first cup of coffee.  What do you do?  Your dog is now in the house maybe whimpering and hiding, or in sheer panic mode…racing around, rubbing his face and smearing that smell on the couch, on the carpet, on the kids.  He’s scared, he’s irritated and he stinks!  
  1. ACT FAST.  The dog will be unhappy and possibly hurting.  The smell will be horrible.  You may be unprepared.  But the longer you wait to remove the stink, the harder it will be to remove it.  
  2. CONTAIN THE DOG:  Grab your dog and get him back outside into a protected, fenced-in space — or wrap him in a beach towel and put him in a room that is easy to clean (no carpets, rugs, drapes, sofas, chairs or beds).
  3. LOOK FOR BITES OR INJURIES:  Check your dog for bites and scratches.  If the dog has been bitten or has a serious scratch or deeper cut from his tangle with the skunk, get him to the vet ASAP.  
  4. CHECK HIS EYES:  A dog that has gotten sprayed at point-blank range will have a soaked face and watery, red, irritated eyes.  If you suspect that your dog was sprayed in the face, immediately bathe his eyes with cool water.  Gently flush for 5-10 minutes until the redness subsides.  You can also use your eyewash solution.
  5. GRAB YOUR DE-SKUNKING MIXTURE:  If you have it on hand, apply a skunk odor removal product—like NATURE’S MIRACLE® Skunk Odor Remover or SKUNK-OFF®.  Follow instructions exactly for safe and effective use. If you don’t have a store-bought product on hand, you’ll need to mix your own quickly from these standard household products.
  • 1 quart (32 oz.) of 3-percent hydrogen peroxide
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon liquid dishwashing soap

Mix ingredients well. The solution will fizz.

DO NOT SUBSTITUTE ingredients with “like” products because the chemical reaction of substitute products will not be the same and may be dangerous to your dog or you.

This recipe is for a 30-40 pound dog.  If your dog is bigger, double or triple the recipe.  It doesn’t hurt to have more than you need as you may want to bathe the dog twice, or more!  But DO NOT STORE  this concoction.  USE IT IMMEDIATELY; it can explode if left in a bottle.   

  1. WASH DOG WITH THE DE-SKUNKING MIXTURE:  Wearing rubber gloves, wash your dog thoroughly with this solution ASAP after he’s been sprayed.  Rub and massage the solution deep into your dog’s coat.  If your dog has been sprayed in the face, you may want to use a washcloth or sponge to make sure you thoroughly clean the affected area.
    Be careful to avoid getting the solution in the dog’s eyes. You can apply a small bit of eye lubricant (such as PURALUBE®) or 1-2 drops of mineral oil to your dog’s eyes. This will help protect the eyes in case any of the mixture splashes into his eyes.
  2. SOAK DOG IN DE-SKUNKING MIXTURE, RINSE, REPEAT:  Allow the solution to remain on your dog for at least five minutes (longer if a strong odor persists).  But don’t leave the solution on him too long as the peroxide can bleach his fur (don’t worry, your dog’s coat may become slightly lighter as a result of the solution, but he won’t become a platinum blond…and his natural color will return over time).  Rinse him thoroughly with lukewarm water.  Repeat as necessary until odor is gone.
  3. SHAMPOO, RINSE, AND DRY THE DOG:  Now, it’s time to give your dog a bath with his normal dog shampoo.  You’ll need to do this once or twice, maybe more until the scent fades.  After shampooing and rinsing, dry him off thoroughly with a towel or a hair-dryer.  Let the dog relax somewhere comfortable where he will not get too cold or too hot.  If possible, don’t let your dog get wet for a while after you’ve cleaned him up from a skunking. Moisture seems to reactivate and may worsen the odor.
  4. GIVE YOUR DOG A TREAT:  He’s been traumatized and maybe he’s a little embarrassed.  Hopefully, he’s learned a lesson and will never try to find that skunk again.
  5. CLEAN YOURSELF AND YOUR SPACE:  Wash your hands and arms well, applying some of the de-skunking mixture if necessary.  If your dog rubbed some of the stink onto your clothes or furniture, use regular laundry detergent mixed with a half-cup of baking soda to wash your clothes.  You can also use the de-skunking solution on clothing and furniture—but be aware that some bleaching may occur.  Test for colorfastness on a hidden area before applying to the affected area of any fabric.
  6. GIVE YOURSELF A TREAT:  Cleaning up skunk spray is not fun.  It can take several hours or more to clean the dog, the house, and yourself.  And be prepared…because even after all that cleaning, a skunk smell can take 6 weeks to completely fade.  In the meantime, you and your family may have to do extra washing and cleaning.  But keep a sense of humor and remember–now you have a funny story to tell about that time your dog got skunked!
    To help avoid meetings between skunks and your dog, try to prevent skunks from being attracted to your property.  Do not leave food outside, including bird seed and fallen fruit from trees.  Make sure garbage cans are secured.  If you’ve have continuous problems with skunks, consider placing moth balls and ammonia-soaked rags around your property.  In addition, keep your dog within eye shot and keep him from running into wooded areas unattended.  And if you share your neighborhood with these stinkers, take your dog outdoors only on a leash—particularly at dawn and dusk when skunks are more likely to be active.
    Tomato juice – This tried and true remedy is an old favorite. The acid in the tomatoes seems to cut through the oily base of the skunk’s spray.  Get giant bottles of tomato juice and douse the dog in it.  Let it sit in his fur for 15-20 minutes.  Then rinse it off and suds your dog in shampoo and dry him off.  You may have to repeat these steps several times. Be warned that a white dog may be temporarily orange after this procedure.  Also, make sure your dog doesn’t shake tomato juice everywhere…it stains.
    Massengill – For small to medium pets use two ounces of Massengill douche with one gallon of water.  For large dogs, double the recipe.  Pour the mixture over the dog until he is thoroughly soaked, wait 15 minutes and then rinse. Follow with a bath using the dog’s regular shampoo.
    Vinegar:  mix 2 parts water with 1 part apple cider vinegar, and set the solution aside (the total amount you’ll need to mix depends on the size of your dog). Thoroughly wet your smelly dog’s coat with water.  Then work the vinegar solution through the fur. Let the solution sit for about 5 minutes; then rinse thoroughly.  
    Vanilla Extract:  Try dousing a skunked dog with about a cup of vanilla extract mixed in a gallon of water.  Let the dog soak in the solution for about 10 minutes before applying dog shampoo and rinsing.  Rinse well; you do not want your dog to become a sweet, sticky bee attraction.

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