The time of year has arrived when wildlife is recognizing that spring is around the corner. This time of year often becomes obvious to pet owners when they open the door to let the family dog or cat in, and are greeted by the undeniable, pungent and lingering aroma of skunk. These unfortunate encounters result in one given response by pet owners — it’s bath time!
Skunk spray is very oily and contains sulfur (odor). The longer you wait to bathe your pet, the more difficult it will be to remove the odor. Bathing your skunked pet is usually a two-person job (especially if uncooperative). Have all of the items you will need within easy reach. As soon as you realize your dog or cat has been sprayed by a skunk, use some rubber or latex gloves and old clothes and examine the pet for bites or scratches. Also check the pet’s eyes for redness or discharge. If any injuries are found, you should contact your veterinarian before proceeding. Flush eyes thoroughly with cool water from the inner corner to the outer corner, and use a lubricant or one to two drops of mineral oil to protect the eye from further irritation. Be sure to always have your pets up to date on vaccinations. While you prepare the de-skunking antidote, keep your pet outside after it has been sprayed so the smell is not carried into your house.
Use Dawn dishwashing liquid to wash the entire pet and break up oils. Continue with one of the following de-skunking antidotes as directed. Care should be taken to prevent any of the antidotes from getting into the pet’s eyes. Use a face towel to carefully wash the pet’s face with the antidote mixture:
• 1 quart of 3-percent hydrogen peroxide (available at your local pharmacy)
• 1/4 cup baking soda
• 1 teaspoon liquid dishwashing liquid (a grease-cutting liquid like Dawn is recommended)
Rub mixture through fur down to the skin and rinse thoroughly with fresh water.
Caution: Do not get mixture in pet’s eyes. Do not store this mixture in a covered container, as it could explode, causing serious injury to you and your pet. Do not leave mixture on pet for a long time, as peroxide can cause bleaching (lightening) of fur.
You could also use vinegar diluted in water, or tomato juice. Rub either mixture through fur. Leave on five to 15 minutes and rinse thoroughly with fresh water. Caution: Do not get either mixture in the pet’s eyes.
Next, wash your pet with pet shampoo and rinse thoroughly. Pet shampoo has properly balanced pH. By now, the pet should be de-skunked and smelling sweet. Thoroughly towel-dry your pet and be sure to place them in a warm, sunny room for the next couple of hours so that they do not get chilled. They should also have a large, dry towel on which to lie down. If you pet has long fur, you may need to use a hair dryer on a low setting to dry its fur. You can rid your clothes, towel and pet bedding of the smell by using regular laundry detergent mixed with half a cup of baking soda.
Avoid future encounters by preventing any skunks from becoming attracted to your yard. Do not leave pet food, including bird seed and lard, and fruit from trees outside. Secure garbage in sealed containers. Place mothballs around the property to deter skunks from approaching. Prevent pets from running into wooded areas unattended.
Avoid tragic outcomes by seeking medical treatment, at your veterinarian, if you see bites or scratches on your pet after an encounter with a skunk. Keep your pet up to date on vaccinations, especially the rabies vaccine.
Robin Maurillo, of Auburn, has worked as a veterinary
technician and animal cruelty investigator for numerous
years in central New York.