What to Do if Your Pet Is Sprayed by a Skunk

Learning about skunks behavior may help prevent being "skunked"

Striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) spraying
Striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) spraying. Getty - Stockbyte/Tom Brakefield

Getting sprayed by a skunk is something you don't forget. Your dog barks frantically or maybe zooms off in another direction. Then you smell it. Skunk! Some escape with just a spritz, while other dogs come back dripping in skunk juice. 

Once, in the rainy darkness, I startled a skunk while checking on my chickens. I never saw the skunk, but it sprayed on the tall wet grass. I unknowingly walked through this grass, getting "skunked" myself.

 

Skunks are nocturnal, or more accurately, crepuscular. They're active mainly at twilight, dawn, and full moon (dimly light) nights. Skunks have a strong sense of smell and hear well, but they do not see very well. They do, however, have very good aim with their offensive scent.

Why Do Skunks Spray, and What Do They Spray?

Skunks are adept at using their scent glands as a weapon against predators. Spraying is not the skunk's first line of defense. They engage in a series of displays to ward off potential attacks before spraying. If a skunk feels threatened, they will hiss, stamp their feet and raise their tail as warning signs. A mother skunk with kits may spray offensively. Once they decide to spray, the tail goes up, and the offensive secretion is sent off to its target. 

The scent glands are similar to the anal glands of a dog or a cat. They are located on either side of the anus and produce an oily secretion.

The secretion contains sulfur compounds and that's what produces the rotten egg smell.

Removing the Odor:

The "old" methods of removing skunk odor, a tomato juice or "Massengill" douche bath just never seemed to fully rid the pet of the odor. Even if passable, once the pet gets wet (i.e. rain shower), the skunk smell comes right back.

We now have much more effective skunk-odor-removal techniques, thanks to chemist Paul Krebaum, who developed the skunk odor removal recipe in 1993, utilizing common household ingredients. Dogs Guide Jenna Stregowski, RVT, has done an excellent job of describing this recipe, along with some important safety and skunk spray prevention tips.

Play it Safe:

Learning about the skunk's lifestyle and behavior will help minimize future attacks of the smelly stuff. I often check on my chickens and geese chores at night and try always to take a flashlight out so I am not surprised. I go outside first, so my dog doesn't unknowingly startle a skunk before it is too late and we are all reeking of skunk odor. (It has happened before.) Now thankfully, we don't need to suffer through the smell.

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Skunks and pets

Please note: this article has been provided for informational purposes only. If your pet is showing any signs of illness, please consult a veterinarian as quickly as possible.