By Caitlin Ultimo
The smell is undeniable: If a skunk has sprayed your dog, you know what has happened. What you may not know, though, is what to do next as panic sets in and the stench grows stronger. Skunk oil and its smell can linger for up to a year if not entirely removed from your dog’s skin and coat, which makes effectively cleaning your dog quickly after a skunk incident essential.
Dogs will often be sprayed in the face, so start there and flush out any skunk spray residue that may have gotten in his eyes, nose or mouth. “The first thing to do is to check your dog’s eyes,” says Susan Konecny, RN, DVM and medical director at Best Friends Animal Society®. “Skunk spray is very irritating to dogs, if you notice his eyes are red or watering, rinse them with cool water or with some eyewash solution; the type used for people is fine.”
Once you address his face, you have a few options to tackle the rest of his smelly body.
Safe Ways to Get Rid of the Smell
There are several methods for de-skunking a dog, but keep in mind that most methods, depending upon how badly your dog has been sprayed, will need to be repeated more than once. Attempt the following methods outside if possible so that you can avoid a smelly mess indoors and try to stay in a lighted area where the skunk will be less likely to re-visit.
- Hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and dish soap: Konecny recommends mixing together one quart of three percent hydrogen peroxide (available at any pharmacy), a quarter cup cup baking soda and one teaspoon liquid dishwashing soap. Wearing rubber gloves, wash your dog immediately after he’s been sprayed. Place the mixture on your dog’s coat (avoiding his eyes) and allow it to rest for about 20 minutes before washing your dog. Follow up by washing your dog with pet shampoo and rinsing well, repeating the process two to three more times as needed. Konecny warns against creating this mixture before a possible incident and storing it, as the mixture could explode if left in a bottle.
- Tomato juice: lather your dog in his regular shampoo, dry him off and then cover him in tomato juice, saturating the coat completely and letting it soak for 10 to 20 minutes before rinsing and washing again with your dog’s shampoo. You may have to repeat these steps several times and, if your dog is white, they may temporarily turn orange after the procedure, according to Konecny.
- A feminine hygiene product: a perhaps unlikely solution, Konecny says a mixture of Massengill douche and water can help eliminate skunk odors. “For small to medium pets, use two ounces of Massengill with one gallon of water and for large dogs, you’ll want to double the amount of water and Massengill.” Pour the mixture over the dog until it is thoroughly soaked, wait 15 minutes and then rinse. Bathe afterwards with pet shampoo and rinse well. Again, consult your veterinarian on how often you should repeat.
- Sunk-specific shampoo, spray or soaker: look for a product that has been specifically formulated to get rid of skunk odor. You can typically get these products from your veterinarian or pet supply store and if you live in an area where skunks are common, it may be a good idea to keep the product on hand to address the issue as soon as it coms up. With shampoos, sprays and soakers, wipe off excess skunk spray first and then read the bottle’s directions for applying the solution. Remember to keep these products from getting into your dog’s eyes and ask your veterinarian how often you should repeat bathing.
How Avoid Getting Skunked Again
While there may not be a method that is foolproof, there are ways to help your dog avoid getting sprayed by a skunk again. Skunks are nocturnal (and typically first come out at dusk), so consider leaving a light on in the yard or accompanying your dog outside when you let it out in the evening. You could also set up outside solar lights so that your yard stays lit throughout the entire night, making it a less desirable place for skunks to frequent. Automated sprinklers set to turn on throughout the night may also be a good way to deter skunks from roaming your yard off hours. Also, remember to take any dog food or treats indoors and cover trashcans in your yard so that skunks aren’t lured in from the scent of a possible meal. If you believe you have a serious skunk problem, investigate pet-safe pest control sprays and consult a professional about having your yard treated.