Dog Got Skunked? Cut Through the Stink with Citrus

You head out for an innocent walk and the unexpected happens.

Your dog sees a cute little critter waddling along and can’t help but investigate. The skunk turns up his cute tail and blasts your best bud with an incredible stink. For the skunk, this is a simple and extremely effective defense mechanism against predation and the smell is anything but temporary. Be thankful it wasn’t a porcupine, and then prepare for some intense cleaning.

Get Home with Minimal Contact

Many skunk encounters happen on hikes and walks originating at a trailhead. If you're lucky enough to be within range of your home, you can walk back without ruining your upholstery. In a vehicle however, take a few minutes to quarantine an area in the back. The goal here is minimizing contact. Fold down seats, lay out blankets, and wrap your dog in a towel if possible. If you prepare well enough, you just might make it home without requiring an additional interior detail for your car.

Prepare a Wash Station

The last thing you want is that special skunk smell all over your house. Make a special wash station outside, ideally near a hose with a pressure nozzle. If a hose is not immediately available, use buckets of warm water and a kids swimming pool or other trough that will hold some water. Wear gloves to protect your hands while you really massage the stink out of the fur. Before you pull on the gloves and start washing, make sure you have everything ready and easily accessible. White vinegar mixed with lemon juice will cut through a good chunk of the smell. Dr Bronner’s makes a citrus soap that also does a surprisingly great job on skunk smells. Both are chemically mild and easy on the animal. One round of each is a good idea to really work through the smell and break down the chemicals. Tomato juice is another common recommendation, but I’ve found it does not work well, stains, and is inconvenient. If the smell is really stubborn, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide mixed with a little lemon juice will create an aggressive reaction to break down scent particles.

Multiple Rounds of Deep Cleaning

If your dog hates bathing, prepare for a struggle because it takes a few rounds of cleaning no matter what method is used. I’ve leashed my dog to a post in the past. Having two free hands is a huge help. If possible, enlist a helper to hold and calm the dog while you wash away. Start with a strong spray from the hose to wet the fur and push away any topical scent particles. Put your gloves on and go to work, rubbing your solution into the fur. You want to hit that skin level or the smell will not dissolve. Rinse away everything with a strong spray and repeat until the smell is no longer present. The citrus really makes a difference in cutting through the smell. Lemon is great, but I really like orange to cover the last remaining bits of scent that always seem to require a few days to dissipate.
skunk ©istockphoto/Adrian Wojcik

Zach Lazzari

Back to Blog