I remember when our pup, now 13, was young. About a year. She was romping around in the backyard one evening and it happened… the stinker came out of nowhere, and after him she went. It almost happened in slow motion, our poor dog got skunked. And you know what comes next. The smell… oh my.

Back then, I wasn’t as savvy a pet parent as I am now. I rummaged through the panty and pulled out the jar of tomato juice, got her in the bath, and began to scrub. She didn’t like it. I didn’t like it. But the smell, it didn’t really care. It just settled in and hung around. For months afterward, any time our gal got wet, that smell came roaring back.

So, what should I have done when my dog got skunked? What would I do now if the same thing happened?

And what can you do it you’re in the same predicament?

But first…

Is Skunk Spray Dangerous?

Is it dangerous if your pet gets sprayed by a skunk?

Usually when this happens, our immediate concern is how the heck we’re going to live with the smell, but should we be worried about other concerns as well?

Skunk spray itself is a yellow oil that will cling to most surfaces that contacts; like all oils, it does not mix with water. Chemically, it contains as many as seven different volatile compounds (compounds that readily become gas) that cause its gag-inducing smell.

NOT SO FUN FACT: Skunks can spray up to 10 feet and can spray as many as 6 times in a row!!

Now, depending on how close your pup gets, those compounds may get into the nose or mouth. And if that happens, you might notice drooling, vomiting, or your pet rubbing her face as if it’s itchy. If it gets in her eyes, temporary blindness may occur. These are are, but they can happen.

Even more rare are things called Heinz body anemia, methemoglobinemia, and hemoglobinuria, any of which may occur a few hours to 24 hours after exposure. These are when the thiols in the skunk spray cause oxidative damage to hemoglobin. The thiols react with oxyhemoglobin in an oxidation-reduction reaction. This reaction forms methemoglobinemia, thiyl radicals, and hydrogen peroxide. Thiyl radicals and hydrogen peroxide are highly reactive and combine with hemoglobin sulfhydryl groups, resulting in Heinz bodies and subsequent hemolysis.

It is crucial to keep a close eye on your pup and contact your vet if you notice anything out of the ordinary.

Rabies is also a concern. In both Canada and the United States, skunks are carriers of rabies virus. On an annual basis, approximately 20% of the animals that test positive for rabies in the United States are skunks, while in Canada, 40% are skunks. That’s why it’s important to check your pet over for any scratches or bites immediately after an encounter. If you do find any, be sure to contact your vet.

Dog Got Skunked?

Forget about the tomato juice. Keep it where it is. It isn’t going to help. That’s a myth that so many pet owners still believe. There’s a far simpler (and much more effective) way to get that skunk smell out of your dog. And it absolutely DOES NOT mean rushing her into the tub!

In fact, you want to try not to get your pup wet after she gets sprayed. The water will seal the skunk oil secretion into the hair follicle. And that’s what causes the smell to stick around for weeks – even months. To neutralize the smell, you need to break down the oils so that they can be washed off the fur or skin.

So, if your dog got skunked, here’s what to do:

1. Check your dog all over for any scratches or bite marks. If you find any, contact your vet for next steps. Don’t rush to the vet. Most vets turn away skunked dogs because they don’t need medical attention and because they stink up the hospital. Check her eyes. If they’re red or irritated, flush them immediately with cool water. 

2. Change into clothes you don’t mind getting wet, and gather towels you don’t mind tossing afterwards. 

3. Grab some baking soda and dish soap. If you have natural dish soap, that’s even better. It’s safer to put on your dog’s skin, but regular soap will work too if that’s all you’ve got. You can also use dog shampoo – again, natural is best if you have it. Mix them together to form a paste. Start with:

  • 1/4 cup of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of liquid dishwashing soap

Add more soap if necessary, but you want it to be a thick paste. If you need the mixture to cover more area, double the recipe.

4. Now, work the paste well into the area that got sprayed. Don’t get any in her eyes or nose. Remember, leave the fur dry – don’t get it wet. Let it sit for 20-30 mins, then you’re good to rinse.

5. After this, do a regular shampoo and you should be good to go!

What About Hydrogen Peroxide?

Many people suggest adding hydrogen peroxide to the above recipe. It is widely known as a disinfectant for injuries, wounds, or scratches in humans, because it destroys microorganisms.

But we’re just not fans of using it on our animals.

Firstly, it can be easy to overdue it, or use the wrong type of hydrogen peroxide. It is bleach, don’t forget. It can be toxic to tissue, and it induces vomiting. And it can also discolour or damage your dog’s fur.

Secondly, it’s drying. So it you use it after your dog got skunked, it can dry out her skin, which is never a good thing.

If you find that you need something with a bit more punch to get rid of the smell, some simple white vinegar will do the trick. Leave the hydrogen peroxide in the first aid kit.