Skunks are infamous for the rotten-smelling liquid that they spray out of their hindquarters when they’re scared. You have most likely heard of the striped skunk and the spotted skunk, but there are a few other different types of skunks out there, and all of them are native to America. You can find them just about everywhere in the United States. They can also live as far south as South America, and as far north as Canada. And if you live in these areas, you are bound to end up in a stinky battle with skunk odor at some point in your life.
Cute Enough to be Kept as Pets?
Skunks are nearly always black and white, but they can also be shades of brownish-red and off-white. According to the people who are brave enough to get close to them, skunks have silky soft fur, sort of like a long-haired cat. They are also only about the size of cats and have big fluffy tails that make them easy to identify. Their closest relatives are ferrets, minks, and badgers. Some people think that these animals are so cute that they should be kept as pets! But for most of us, seeing a skunk means trouble. This is especially true if you are walking your dog when you see that cursed black and white tail rise into the air. Whether you and your dog were recently sprayed, or you live in skunk territory and want to be prepared, here is a guide to keeping you and your pup smelling fresh and clean.
What To Do When You See A Skunk
If you see a skunk while you’re walking your dog, don’t try to shoo it away. Your goal is to get away from it as soon as possible, without coming across as a threat. Remember that skunks only spray when they are genuinely afraid. Spraying is their defense mechanism. The horrible smell is meant to make predators leave them alone, and congratulations to the skunk – that defensive stench definitely does its job!
When you encounter a skunk, the first thing you should do is calmly assess the situation. As long as the skunk isn’t directly in your path, you might be able to pass by and continue your walk. Skunks don’t go around looking for something to spray; it is a last resort. If your dog is calm, and the skunk is calm, there’s no reason to panic.
Blind as a Skunk
Skunks are almost completely blind. The skunk may not care that you’re there if you and your dog are quiet and relaxed. If you aren’t sure whether you should continue your walk or turn around, observe the skunk’s behavior. They give warning signs before they spray. If the skunk seems to be happily minding its own business, there isn’t much reason to worry.
The Warning Signs
You need to get away fast if the skunk starts stomping its feet. Other warning signs include raising their tails, running towards you, hissing, squealing, and even doing handstands! If you see those warning signs, you’re moments away from being sprayed. Skunks can spray their stinky liquid up to 10 feet away! If you and your dog back up fast, you should be able to prevent the liquid from touching you. You’ll still probably want to shower afterward, though, because humans can smell a skunk’s spray from over three miles away!
Keep Calm and Distract Your Dog
Keep in mind that skunks are more likely to be afraid of your dog than you. So, if your dog seems overly fascinated with a skunk, try to redirect him as soon as possible. Offer your dog some treats and toys, if you have them. You want your dog focused on you and your commands, not on the skunk.After all, the last thing you want is for your dog to run off and growl or chase a skunk. This is yet another reason to always keep your dog on a leash; if your dog chases a skunk like it would a squirrel or cat, he is sure to come back smelling like garbage.
If for some reason walking away isn’t possible, try to remain calm and still. Hopefully, the skunk will walk away from you! Obviously, this might not be an easy feat if your dog is with you. If your dog is small, pick it up and hold it away from the skunk. Try to prevent your dog from barking or growling, since those are predatorial behaviors that will scare it. If you are able to convince the skunk that you and your dog aren’t too scary, it will walk away without spraying you.
Light and Water
If you can’t leave and the skunk won’t either, your last option is to try to scare it off without getting sprayed. Because skunks are nocturnal, shining a bright light can be enough to make them run off. It is always a good idea to keep a light, such as a small flashlight, on your dog’s leash. There are many times when a flashlight can come in handy when you’re walking a dog, and a skunk run-in is one of them. You can also download a flashlight app onto your phone. Shine the bright light in between you and the skunk, and hopefully, it will run away to darkness. Another technique is to scare the skunk off with water. If you happen to have a water bottle with you, or there is a hose nearby, try to squirt the skunk before it squirts you!
Hopefully, you’ll be nearby and able to get your dog away when your dog comes across a skunk. But since skunks live all across America, it is always possible that your dog will get sprayed while out in the backyard by themselves. If your dog gets sprayed, don’t worry too much. Follow this guide and your pup will be free from skunk-stench in no time!
What to do When Your Dog Gets Sprayed
Skunks can spray their liquid so fast that its victims won’t have time to shut their eyes before it hits them, which can be a painful and upsetting experience. Although the stinky liquid should not do any serious or permanent damage, it can cause pain, irritation, and temporary blindness. The spray contains sulfur and thiols. It is sort of like a more concentrated version of the molecules that make our eyes water and burn when we chop onions. The spray might also get into your dog’s nose, causing an uncomfortable burning sensation.
If your dog was sprayed by a skunk, the first thing you want to do is take care of their eyes and face. Begin first aid as soon as possible if you think your dog was sprayed in the face. Rinse your dog’s eyes with clean water until you think that the skunk spray is out. If you happen to have saline eye wash on hand, that is a great way to help clean the eyes. Just don’t mistake contact lens disinfectant for saline wash, because the disinfectant could cause more serious pain than the spray.
Injured dogs are prone to scratching and licking their wounds. If your dog’s eyes are burning from being sprayed by a skunk, he might constantly try to paw at them. Unfortunately, this could lead to more damage if your dog badly scratches up his face. Try to keep your dog comfortable and relaxed, and make sure all of the spray is removed from their eyes and nose. If your dog cannot stop messing with the area that was sprayed, it is always a good idea to check in with your veterinarian. If the spray got deep into your dog’s eyes or nasal passage, the veterinarian might want to do a more thorough rinse than you could do at home.
Remedies to Get Rid of the Smell
Once you know that your dog is safe and comfortable, it’s time to address the more obvious problem: the smell! We’ve all heard the old wives’ tale that a bath in tomato juice will remove skunk odor. And to some degree, it does work. However, tomato juice is by no means the most efficient way to clean off your smelly four-legged pal. Here are some better, more modern alternatives:
Apple Cider Vinegar
An apple cider vinegar rinse is a cheap and easy way to remove skunk odor. Unfortunately, the smell of apple cider vinegar isn’t too great either. But if your dog just came inside after being sprayed by a skunk, the smell of vinegar will be a relief! Make a vinegar-water solution using one-part vinegar to one-part water. For a medium sized dog, you’ll probably want to mix at least two or three cups worth of solution. Rub the vinegar and water mixture into your dog’s fur and let it soak in for five to ten minutes before rinsing.
Hydrogen Peroxide and Baking Soda
The mixture of hydrogen peroxide in baking soda creates a fizzy chemical reaction that is an excellent cleaner. If you decide to pre-mix the solution before pouring it onto your dog, make sure that your bowl is big enough to handle the chemical reaction. Sprinkle about ¼ cup of baking soda into the bowl (or onto your dog), and then pour a bottle of hydrogen peroxide on top. Let it soak into your dog’s fur for five to ten minutes before rinsing. Some people also like to add a tablespoon of dish soap into this concoction.
Store-Bought skunk Odor Remedy
- Skunk odor remover eliminates skunk odors in minutes
- Liquid enzymes neutralize the skunk's odor-causing organic material
If your dog just came inside smelling like skunk spray, you probably aren’t going to have time to run to the pet store for some skunk odor remedy. However, if you’re the sort of person who likes to plan ahead, it isn’t a bad idea to keep a bottle of skunk odor remover laying around! These products usually come in the form of a shampoo or spray, and cost about $10. On top of applying it to your dog, you may also want to use it to rinse off anything your dog touched after being sprayed.
Skunks live all across North America, and there is a good chance you have a few nearby. If you know that there is a skunk den somewhere near your house, take some precautions. After all, the last thing you want is for your dog to get sprayed and then wipe themselves off on your furniture!
- Keep a few lights turned on in your yard at night. Skunks are nocturnal and hate light. If your yard is well-lit, they won’t want to come in. Solar lights are a relatively cheap and maintenance-free way to keep your yard lit at night.
- Remove anything they might want to eat. They love to eat berries, nuts, and certain leaves. Keep your bushes trimmed, don’t leave trash where they can access it, and protect your garden.
- Take your dog out on a leash at night. Be careful letting your dog out to potty at night if you have seen skunks hanging around. Keeping your dog on a leash will give you more control if a certain black and white critter presents itself.