Pet is sprayed by a Skunk, what to do?

Skunks are notorious for their anal scent glands, which they can use as a defensive weapon. Skunks have two glands, one on each side of the anus. These glands produce the skunk’s spray, which is a mixture of sulphur-containing chemicals (thiols), which have an offensive odour. A skunk’s spray is powerful enough to ward off bears and other potential attackers.

The smell aside, the spray can cause irritation and even temporary blindness. Unfortunately, our pets often get sprayed right in the face, so the first thing you should do if you think your pet got sprayed by a skunk is check their eyes if they look red or irritated flush them with cool water.

Due to the chemical composition of the spray, most household remedies are ineffective and simple soap, and water won’t get rid of the stink. The oily compound smells bad enough as it is, but when it mixes with water, a chemical reaction makes the odour even more pronounced, so any effort to wash off the spray can easily backfire.

To fully banish the smell, you need to alter the chemical makeup of the thiols. There are several commercial shampoos and solutions available on the market, but their formulas are usually kept secret and results vary a lot from case to case. Some people have good experiences with some products, but none of them seem to be 100% effective in getting rid of the stink. If you want to try one of these products it is important to follow the label instructions properly. And for cat parents out there, make sure the product is safe for use on cats before trying it out.

The Humane Society of the United States recommends treating dogs using a mixture of dilute hydrogen peroxide (3%), baking soda, and dishwashing liquid following this recipe:

  • 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide (available at any drugstore)
  • ¼ cup of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
  • 1 teaspoon of liquid dishwashing soap

Rub this solution into your pet’s dry coat, being careful not to get the cleaning solution into the pet’s eyes. Let the cleaner/deodorizer sit on the coat for 20 minutes. Rinse thoroughly with water and then shampoo as normal. Repeat all steps if necessary.

And pro tip, this is best done outside because it will get messy!

Written by Natalia, RVT