Dogs, Cats, and Skunks: 6 Steps to De-Skunking Your Pet

Dogs and cats are predators, and although some are more interested than others, most enjoy the hunt.

Skunks are generally seen as easy prey by hunting dogs and cats, however these normally passive, slow moving, peaceful animals will, when threatened, arch the back, lift the rear end, and spray a foul-smelling oil from glands under the tail. This oil has been compared to burning rubber or plastic. It’s horrid and because it’s oil based, it sticks to anything it touches and lasts a long time. Pet owners and commercial pet product companies have come up with many remedies; some that work to a greater or lesser extent than others, but there is one remedy that stands out as the most effective.

The Ingredients Needed

You will need some rubber gloves and preferably a pair that goes mid-way up your arm so you don’t get any of the skunk’s oils on your skin. Gather together two or three towels that you’ll be willing to throw away later. You will also need a quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide,  1/4 cup baking soda and a bottle of Joy or Dawn dishwashing soap. These two brands are the best when it comes to breaking down grease and oil. (They are the brands most often used to clean wildlife soaked in oil from oil leaks.) Don’t mix anything yet; this needs to be done at the last minute so just gather together your supplies.

Work Fast!

Once your pet has been sprayed, it’s important to get to work on your pet as quickly as possible. The longer the oils stay on his coat and skin, the more they’re absorbed and the less smell you’ll be able to remove.

Your dog or cat got sprayed outside and if it’s at all possible, bathe him outside, too, so the skunk’s oils don’t permeate your house. However, if it’s not possible, put on some grubby clothes you can throw away later and while wearing those rubber gloves, pick up your pet and carry him to the bathroom.

Using some paper towels or an old towel, soak up any excess skunk spray right away. Blot as much as you can off your pet before the bath.

Mix the Remedy and Use It

In an open container, like a mixing bowl or pitcher, combine the 1 quart 3% hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup baking soda, and a tablespoon of the Joy or Dawn dishwashing soap. (Never keep this in a covered container or store it for future use as the mixture can explode if stored in a covered container.)

Avoiding the eyes, inside of the ears, and mouth; apply the mixture to the affected areas of the pet’s coat and work in well. The mixture needs to remain on the pet for five minutes but you can use this time to continue working it into the coat.

After five minutes rinse the mixture out of your pet’s coat and then wash him again using just the Joy or Dawn but this time wash the entire dog or cat. Then rinse again, thoroughly, making sure to get get all of the mixture and soap out of the animal’s coat.

Towel off your pet, let him shake if he wants to, and then towel him again. Make sure he doesn’t get chilled while he dries.

Repeat if Needed

If your pet is still stinky the day after the spraying and initial bath, you can bathe him using the same process. However, the longer the smell remains, the less effective any bathing will be so if you want to re-do it, do so early.

Check Eyes, Ears, Skin, and Breathing

If some of the skunk’s spray got in your pet’s eyes, rinse them with saline solution. You might need to flush the eyes for a couple of minutes. If your pet is still bothered after the rinsing and the bath, call your veterinarian for advice.

Your pet’s ears can be cleaned with a cotton ball and ear cleaning solution. Gently wipe all the curves and crevasses of the ear. Several cleanings might be needed.

If your pet got too close to the skunk, it may have bitten in self defense. Since skunks are a carrier of rabies in many regions, this can be particularly dangerous. As you bathe your pet, look at his skin closely and if you see any scratches or bites, call your veterinarian right away.

Dogs and cats who get sprayed directly in the face can inhale the skunks’s spray and this can cause respiratory distress. Watch for coughing, sneezing, and wheezing that continues after the bath. If your pet continues to have trouble breathing, get him to your veterinarian or the emergency veterinarian right away.

Call Pest Control

Don’t expect that the discomfort of the spraying will teach your dog or cat to avoid skunks; unfortunately it usually does the opposite. So, if you have a tenancious dog or cat who now wants to hunt all skunks, you may want to call a company who traps and removes pests and have them come get your resident skunk.

Meet the Author: Liz Palika

Liz Palika is a Certified Dog Trainer, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, and the co-owner of Kindred Spirits Dog Training in Vista, CA. Liz is also an award-winning author and writer specializing in pets. She writes about cats, cat behavior and health, dogs, dog behavior and health, living with pets, and pet nutrition. Liz’s works have been recognized with many awards, but her most recent book, “Idiot’s Guides: Dog Training” (Penguin Books, 2014) recently won the Best Nonfiction book category in the San Diego Book Writing competition. Liz shares her home with two dogs; Bashir, an Australian Shepherd, and Bones, an English Shepherd. Three cats, Spock, Scottie, and Kirk, provide motivation for her articles about cats. And yes, she is a Star Trek fan. For more information go to www.kindredspiritsk9.com.

Patio Protocol for Outdoor Dining With Dogs
6 Hot Weather Safety Tips for Dogs