Your pet has just been skunked. Unfortunately, these close encounters of the smelly kind are all too common among dogs and sometimes even cats. That's because skunks don't mind living close to people and will make their home just about anywhere they can find a steady supply of food and water.
A skunk's spray can reach up to 15 feet away with a yellow oil produced in their anal glands. This oil is composed of a chemical called thioacetates (or thiols) and can bind super quickly to your pet's skin.
Other than making your little buddy reek to high heaven, it can also irritate their eyes if they get a direct hit to the face. It can also cause symptoms like drooling, vomiting and nausea.
In sporadic instances, it can even cause acute anemia in cats.
In other words, the stuff that puts the "pew" in Pepe Le Pew is some serious stuff. It also becomes even more pungent when your pet gets wet. But don't panic. Armed with a little knowledge and few simple products, your pet and your nostrils will soon be on the road to recovery.
Here's what to do if your pet gets sprayed by this innocent looking but noxious little creature.
The horrible smell is enough to bowl you over, but the first thing you'll have to do is to check your pet for signs that they've been sprayed in the cat's or dog's eyes or mouth. Thiols act like tear gas and can seriously irritate or even damage the delicate cornea of the eyes.
If your pet's eyes have been affected, flush them out immediately with cool water. Or if you have them on hand, there are also veterinarian approved eyes drops for pets.
You also want to check your fur baby for any scratches or bites as skunks sometimes carry rabies.
If you see any of the above signs, your best bet is to immediately take your pet to the vet (after flushing their eyes).
If there's no significant harm done, you can get down to the unpleasant business of neutralizing that skunky smell.
How to Neutralize That Skunky Smell
Your first instinct will probably be to put your pet in the bath and start scrubbing. But whatever you do, don't bring your pet into the house as it will also begin to smell like a skunk. Set up a tub outside somewhere.
Also, tomato juice (or a tomato juice bath) does not effectively neutralize "agent yellow." So you can save yourself the trouble plus the mess and skip out on that old tale.
There are some commercial products that are made specifically for de-skunking pets. And it's a good idea to keep one on hand if you live in an area where skunks are common. But if you don't have over-the-counter products on hand, here's a DIY home remedy solution that will get rid of that skunk smell:
DIY Skunk Odor Remover Solution:
- 1 quart 3 percent hydrogen peroxide (3%)
- ¼ cup baking soda
- 1 to 2 teaspoons of dish soap (dishwashing soap)
The hydrogen peroxide and baking soda will oxidize the skunk spray, while the detergent will break down the oils that cling to your pet's skin.
To make sure it's effective, you'll want to use the solution while it's fresh, which means still bubbling.
Use a pair of rubber gloves and work the solution through your pet's fur. Be sure to rinse it out with hot water immediately, as the peroxide can bleach your pet's coat if it's left on for too long. You may need to repeat the process.
Be sure to keep the solution on your cat or dog's coat and avoid getting any solution in their eyes.
Afterward, you can use regular pet shampoo and conditioner to eliminate any residue that may be left.
Next, rub your pet with a towel and let them dry.
If the critter's smell or musk has bonded with your clothes or any towels, you can wash them with regular laundry detergent and ½ cup of baking soda.
A Few Precautions for the DIY Solution
As mentioned, avoid getting the solution into your pet's eyes. Here are a few other precautions you should know.
1: Only use a 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide as a more concentrated solution will irritate your pet's skin.
2: Don't leave it on too long as it can bleach your pet's fur.
3: Avoid contact with the eyes
4: Never store the solution as it can explode if kept in a closed container.
A Word About Cats
As any cat lover knows, they're pretty opposed to being doused with water or anything else that's wet. If that's the case, you can attempt a sponge bath approach.
First, use a washcloth to dampen their fur. Then apply the DIY solution to the cloth and work it through the best you can. Afterward, you'll want to use a fresh, wet cloth to clean the DIY solution off. Be sure to give your pet a thorough wiping to make sure all of the solution is removed.
Hopefully, you'll come out with a better smelling cat and no scratches.
How to Avoid Contact with Skunks
If you want to avoid the skunk odor altogether, it's a good idea to take a few precautions. Other than being common animals, they feel pretty comfortable living around humans and will cozy down anywhere near a reliable food and water supply.
First of all, make sure your outside garbage can is well sealed. And if you leave pet food or water outside for your dog or cat, be sure to bring it in at night.
You may also want to consider installing a motion-sensitive light in the yard as skunks are nocturnal creatures and will want to avoid well-lit places.
Skunks often made their dens under porches or even in sheds. Be sure those areas aren't accessible to them by keeping shed doors closed and by putting chicken wire around the bottom of your porch.
You can also toss mothballs around those areas as skunks (ironically) don't like the smell.
Removing any piles of brush, wood or dead tree stumps from your property is also a good idea as they make attractive dens.
Also, keep in mind that skunks like to feed on grubs. If you have a skunk wreaking havoc on your lawn at night, you may want to consider using a grub killer to cut off his food supply.
As we mentioned earlier, skunks are nocturnal creatures, and many encounters happen at dusk or dawn. You may want to keep your pet indoors at those hours. If you're out for a sunrise or sunset walk with your dog in the woods, be sure to keep them on a leash.
All's Well That Smells Well
If a skunk has sprayed your pet, chances are they're going to want to avoid them in the future. But just in case, it's always good to keep some skunk shampoo or the DIY ingredients around and hope you never have to use them again.
Keep in mind that even after a serious scrubbing, your pet may still smell vaguely skunky if they get wet again (as thiols are activated with water). But in time, that "ode to skunk" will fade, and both of you will be breathing easier.
You might also like: How to Get Rid of Mold [And Identifying Mold in Your Home]
What To Do If Your Dog or Cat Gets Sprayed By a Skunk:
- Act Fast!
- Neutralize That Skunky Smell
- A Few Precautions for the DIY Solution
- A Word About Cats
- How to Avoid Contact with Skunks
- All's Well That Smells Well