Living out in the sticks, I grew up seeing lots of wildlife. Deer, foxes, raccoons (oh, so many raccoons!), woodchucks, and even a few possums. One night, I let the crew out for their just-before-bed potty, and I heard it. They had cornered something.
A few seconds later, and I discovered what they had cornered. I now had one of the least pleasant tasks in dog ownership. I had to remove skunk smell from a dog–actually three dogs. (One had realized this was a bad plan.)
Skunk Biology: Why do Skunks Smell?
Before removing skunk smell from a dog, it’s important to understand what skunk smell is made of. Don’t worry, it’s gross.
All animals–humans included–produce smelly oils from various glands throughout the body. These glands change depending on species, but most species use their anal glands to disperse scent. When cats “spray” something, they are using their anal glands to mark territory.
Skunks are musteloids, a branch of the carnivore family tree. They are most closely related to raccoons, weasels, wolverines, and badgers. Many species in the musteloid family smell strongly and use their scent glands both to mark territory and deter predators, though skunks possess unique control over their anal glands.
When threatened, skunks display their striking black and white color and turn their rear toward their challenger. If the skunk genuinely fears for it’s life, it will express it’s anal glands and spray the predator with a cocktail of natural chemicals. These chemicals don’t just stink–they can temporarily blind.
How to Remove Skunk Smell from a Dog
If your dog attacked a skunk, and now is nursing a serious ego hit, a few things will help reduce the amount of work on your end:
- Keep the dog outdoors if at all possible. Don’t allow the dog to touch any material within your home, or the oil may rub off onto your carpet, walls, and furniture. It’s much easier to wash a dog than a sofa. Bring the dog quickly to the bathtub, and if necessary sacrifice a towel over the dog’s back to keep it from brushing the walls.
- Use rubber gloves to keep the oil from your hands and arms. The skunk’s oils can cause a burning sensation, and can cause major discomfort if you get the scent in your eyes.
- After washing, confine the dog away from the area it was skunked. The skunk’s scent will linger on the grass, bushes, and ground where the dog was skunked, and if the dog returns to the area it could be re-scented.
- Change into clothes you are comfortable throwing away. It takes a lot of work to get the smell off clothing, it’s easier to throw out an old set of leggings and a ratty t-shirt.
Obviously, the simplest way to remove the scent involves taking your dog to the groomer. While it may sound like “admitting defeat,” it certainly reduces a lot of the workload for you.
However, if you don’t want to use a groomer, many folk remedies offer promise of relief. Because the skunk’s scent is an oil, Dawn brand dish detergent breaks down the oils. A mixture of hydrogen peroxide (the kind you’d have in a first aid kit) and baking soda removes the chemical residue.
Many products also offer relief. Nature’s Miracle Skunk Odor Remover works effectively. Most dog shampoo companies offer their own skunk removers. Dogs often require multiple shampoos to come completely clean.
Prevention: The Best Way to De-Skunk a Dog
Truthfully, removing the skunk smell from a dog is one of the least pleasant parts of dog ownership, right up there with stepping in vomit while wearing socks.
Use a fenced dog yard to contain your pets. Not only do fences protect your pets from skunks, they also protect them from predators (like coyotes), theft, and from running into the road.
Train your dogs properly. A trained dog will be better able to suppress their prey drive, and may make better decisions. You also will be able to call off your dog when they do approach a skunk.
Reduce the amount of skunks around your property. Make sure all garbage is kept in closed containers. Keep animal feed secure, especially at night. If you raise poultry, make sure to search thoroughly for eggs every day and make sure that the birds are safely contained at night.