is skunk spray poisonous to dogs?

Downeast Dog News

Skunk Toxicity

Q. My sister’s dog got skunked the other day. He ended up in the hospital for a few days and was very sick. I didn’t know a dog could get that sick from being skunked. What happened?

A. Being a rural state it is very common for our dogs to get sprayed by a skunk. Most of the time all is fine accept for the smell. Sometimes the spray is so intense and so close the dog gets a toxic dose of the spray.

Skunks are generally easy going. They used to be sold as pets many years ago. If they are threatened, they will posture by hissing, stomping their feet and lifting their tail as a warning. If the dog doesn’t listen to these social cues, the skunk will spray secretions from his anal glands. Skunks are very accurate with their aim, and the spray can go 7 to 15 feet.

The anal gland secretions are made up of 7 volatile chemicals. Volatile chemicals evaporate quickly. Two of the chemicals are responsible for the immediate bad odor and make up 51% to 70% of the secretions called thiols. Four of the chemicals don’t initially add to the odor until they are mixed with water. When mixed with water, they change to thiols. This may explain why the dog still has the skunk smell after a bath or when the fur gets damp. The seventh chemical is an alkaloid, which isn’t as volatile as the six other chemicals.

The common symptoms from skunk spray are swelling around the eyes, conjunctivitis, drooling, and squinting. Rubbing faces, rolling, sneezing, vomiting, and temporary blindness may also occur. The symptoms that occur depend on where the dog catches the spray, in the mouth, on the skin, in the eyes, or breathing it in. If the dog is sprayed on his side or legs, the symptoms are minor. Dogs sprayed directly in the face can inhale the spray.

In rare cases, the inhaled thiols in the spray can damage the red blood cells causing an anemia. This can occur in a few hours to 24 hours after being sprayed. The damage to red blood cells is the same as if the dog ate a toxic amount of onions, garlic, acetaminophen, benzocaine, moth balls, and zinc.

Better than tomato juice or vinegar, the treatment from being skunked is first bathing the dog to decontaminate the skin. The chemicals in the skunk spray are not water-soluble, even with soap. A baking soda and peroxide mixture will change the chemicals into being water-soluble. Be sure to bathe the dog outside, so you don’t contaminate your house. There is a product called Tecnu found at your pharmacy in the first aid aisle. It is a poison ivy treatment. You pour Tecnu on a cloth and wipe down the dog’s coat to break down the chemicals. Follow this with a bath. If eyes have been exposed, flush the dog’s eyes with tepid water.

When your dog receives a heavy spray or multiple exposures, go to your veterinarian to obtain baseline blood work. The dog needs to be monitored for the next 72 hours either in the hospital or at home. Watch your dog’s mucous membranes for change of color and breathing changes. If any symptoms are present, your dog will be hospitalized for treatment. The treatment will be I/V fluids, a possible blood transfusion, and a medicine, N-Acetyecysteine, will be given for several treatments.

I mentioned a baking soda and peroxide mixture. Here is the formula.

Krebaum skunk odor removal formula (Krebaum P. Skunk odor removal. Chem Engineer News 1993;Oct 18:99.)

1quart fresh 3% hydrogen peroxide

1/4 cup baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)

1-2 tsp. of liquid dishwashing detergent

For large dogs, add one quart of tepid water to ensure complete coverage.

Mix all ingredients together

Bathe the dog outdoors. Apply the formula to the pet, working deeply into the fur, and allow it to set for five minutes.

Rinse with copious amount of water after five minutes.

Repeat if necessary.

The mixture must be used promptly and will not work if stored for any length of time.

Do not store in a closed container. The container could break as the peroxide releases oxygen.

The pet’s fur (as well as clothing, towels, and carpeting) may be bleached by the formula.

Downeast Dog News Skunk Toxicity Q. My sister’s dog got skunked the other day. He ended up in the hospital for a few days and was very

What to Do When Your Dog Gets Sprayed by a Skunk

So, your dog just had an encounter with a skunk and got sprayed for his troubles. Although your first instinct may be to let him in the house to wash him off, don’t. Keep him outside. The skunk oil on his coat lingers in the air until he’s clean, and we all know how noxious that smell is.

What is skunk spray? The spray is produced by the anal glands of the skunk to defend against predators and contains sulfurous chemicals called thiols. Since skunks can spray this liquid as far as 15 feet, it’s common for dogs to get a blast directly in the face.

Follow These Steps if Your Dog Gets Sprayed by a Skunk

Check your dog’s eyes: If they’re red or irritated, flush them immediately with cool water. There are also veterinary eyewash products that are safe for dogs, and if you live in an area where skunks are common, it may be a good idea to keep some on hand.

Remove the oil from his coat as quickly as possible: So, now it’s bath time, either outdoors or in a separate space like a garage or barn. The most common household remedy to get rid of skunk odor used to be a tomato juice bath, although it had limited success. Today, there are effective products on the market, as well as a simple DIY remedy you can make with products commonly at hand:

Best Way to Get Rid of Skunk Smell:

  • 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide solution (found at any pharmacy or supermarket)
  • 1/4 cup of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of liquid dishwashing soap

Wearing rubber gloves, work the solution into your dog’s coat, washing him thoroughly. Don’t leave the solution on his fur for too long since peroxide can bleach his fur. Then rinse completely. You might have to repeat the process more than once.

If you don’t have these ingredients on hand, the next best option is one of the old-time remedies, like vinegar diluted with water. While not as effective, it may still help clean your dog and get rid of the smell.

Shampoo your dog: Use a regular dog shampoo to remove any residual solution and to leave your dog smelling clean.

Towel dry: Let him finish drying in a warm sunny room.

Wash your clothes: If any of the skunk smell gets on you during the bathing process, wash your clothes in regular laundry detergent and 1/2 cup of baking soda.

A Few Caveats

  • Use the mixture described above immediately after mixing and do not store it. It can explode if kept in a closed container.
  • Be careful not to get the solution in your dog’s eyes.
  • Don’t leave the mixture on your dog’s coat for too long. Peroxide may bleach your dog’s fur.
  • Don’t use a hydrogen peroxide solution stronger than 3%, it can irritate your dog’s skin
  • It may be impossible to get rid of the odor completely, especially if your dog is sprayed in the face.

Short of somehow training your dog to stay at least 15 feet away from skunks, your best bet is to have these ingredients on hand. Or you can buy one of several commercial products available, like Skunk-Off Pet Shampoo® or Nature’s Miracle Skunk Odor Remover®, and hope you never have to use it.

So, your dog just had an encounter with a skunk and got sprayed for his troubles. Although your first instinct may be to let him in the house to wash him o