Tips and ideas on de-skunking your dog — FERNS & FEATHERS (2023)

Taking the stink out after getting skunked

It all happened so fast.

Holly and I go out every night at around 11 for her final pee. She loves it because she knows there’s a treat at the end. Maybe even two. Well, usually at least two.

It’s a quick in and out, no problem.

Not knowing what awaits us as we step outside, Holly is always on a leash and usually just a few steps in front of me until I’m sure the coast is cleared. The main back light is turned on to supplement the many solar lights and anything that is out there is given ample warning that we are coming out.

I guess no one told Pepe Le Pew the routine. The skunk was hiding behind a large rock on the edge of the patio probably busy digging for grubs. He was just steps from the back door. I think Holly was as surprised to see him as he was to see Holly. All I saw was Holly standing over the little guy before a flash of a black and white tail prompted me to yank the leash back and get her inside.

Then it hit me.

Skunk spray is a form of sulfur. that is released in an oily form. The oil can stick to many surfaces and permeates everything it touches. Once released, the skunk smell fills the air and seeps into everything. It’s a good idea to close all exterior doors and open windows to keep the smell outdoors. The smell can even permeate skin and it’s not unusual to have the odour in your mouth and nose for a period of time. Is it any wonder that, if not treated properly, a dog can carry the smell for up to two years? Especially when its fur gets wet. Just ask a dog groomer. Most will not even take a dog that has been sprayed recently for fear of contaminating their grooming facility.

Holly’s smell was ripe and spreading through our small back landing. I called out for help. Paper towels please and plenty of them.

Be aware that skunks are particularly active in mid Feb. when you might not expect to come across them. This is their mating time and they are often seen during the evening but also during daylight hours roaming around even when there is significant snow on the ground. For more on their Valentine adventures, check out my post here.

Probably not a good idea to bring her inside immediately after getting skunked but I wanted to check her eyes. It’s important to check their eyes; if they're irritated or red, immediately flush them with cool water.

Her eyes seemed fine.

You know that skunk smell you get when you pass one that has been hit on the road, It was nothing like that…

Pungent. Not nice at all.

It wasn’t Holly’s first encounter with a skunk and it surely won’t be her last. After wiping her down as best as I could, we put her and her friend Monet (the cat) in the basement for the night. I felt sorry for both of them, but that’s all we could do at that time.

I would deal with her in the morning.

At first light I was up to take the little stinker outside. I expected the worst when I opened the door to the basement. I was greeted by the cat and dog together at the foot of the stairs. Not sure if Monet felt sorry for Holly or the smell wasn’t bad enough to keep these two buddies apart.

Turns out Holly was able to dodge a bullet. Either she sidestepped the worst the skunk had to offer or the skunk was still a baby and didn’t pack enough punch to make it stick.

Either way, the back entrance seemed to get the worst of it all. A complete cleaning with a Lysol cleaner and then swiffer wet, some scented candles and a diffuser running Refresh from Sage, and it’s liveable again.

Commercial de-skunking products such as Natures Miracle Skunk Odor Remover should probably be your first step to deal with the problem quickly.

Other highly rated products include: Van Den Heuvel’s R86 Industrial Odor Eliminator which is non-toxic and biodegradable. Not only does it eliminate just skunk odors, its combination of more than 30 different essential oils and natural ingredients, can eliminate several odours and is safe to use around children; Bodhi Dog Pet Deskunk Spray Odor Eliminator advertised as containing a combination of essential oils and useful on flat areas both in the home and outdoors; Skunk-off Liquid Soaker, a fast acting solution also useful on hard surfaces around the home; De-Skunk Odor Destroying Shampoo.

But being ill-prepared, I had to make a quick trip to the pet store for some de-skunking shampoo. After a good bath in her bottle cap pool, she’s almost as good as new.

Lessons learned from dog getting skunked

First lesson: Be extremely careful when taking your dog out at night. A combination of solar lights and the back light is good, but it’s not enough in a garden where skunks can be hiding behind plants, rocks or containers. Skunks don’t run fast, so give them time to clear the area. Maybe include a powerful flashlight at the back door for a pre-surveillance before going outdoors with the dog.

Second lesson: Be prepared. There’s not much you can do at 11 pm to deal with the situation if your cupboards are bare of the essentials to de-skunk your dog, or yourself, for that matter. Get some supplies (commercial de-skunkers, old towels, distilled water, rubber gloves, a face mask), put them in a box and have them ready for the big night so the skunking repercussions can, at least, be minimized.

Third lesson: Keep the area around the back door relatively open to lessen the chance of surprising the stinky ones. Always take your dog out on a leash. Despite the leash, she still got skunked. I can’t imagine letting her out on her own. Maybe yanking her back when I saw what was happening was enough to keep the damage to a minimum.

There are several commercial de-skunking remedies available that are simple to use and provide some immediate relief from the odour.

A common DIY concoction comes highly recommended by the humane society

Mix together:

  • 1 quart of 3-per cent hydrogen peroxide (available at most pharmacies)

  • 1/4 cup baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon liquid dishwashing soap preferably Dawn ( highly recommended by wildlife rescues.)

The hydrogen peroxide strips the skunk’s oil from your pet’s coat, and the baking soda helps to neutralizes the smell. Keepthe formula away from your pet’s eyes, mouth, ears and nose and do not let your dog swallow any (it will cause immediately vomiting.)

Pop on some rubber gloves and wash your dog with this solution as soon as possible after they’ve been sprayed.

This DIY mixture CANNOT be stored for later use. The components in this mixture could explode if left in the bottle.

Clean and Rinse: Rub the mixture through the dog’s fur, but don’t leave it on too long (peroxide can bleach fur). Rinse thoroughly.

Shampoo: Next, wash your dog with pet shampoo preferably a de-skunk shampoo and rinse thoroughly. Towel-dry the dog and leave it in a warm dry area. Now is not the time to leave it out in the cold or in a cold garage unless there is a bed and a heater nearby. By now, the smell will be either completely gone or, at best, just slightly stinky.

Wash towels and human clothing separately in a normal wash cycle.

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