Whether you live in the suburbs or out in the country, your dog may encounter a skunk, and you may find yourself frantically searching for a way to remove the skunk smell from your dog. These creatures enjoy hiding under decks, love nibbling on insects, and may even raid your garbage. While skunks can often be smelled from very far away, your dog may be able to sneak up on one — resulting in an unpleasant spray of skunk odor to the face and body. Read on to learn what skunk odor is, how to prevent your dog from getting sprayed, and how to remove the skunky smell.
Skunk Smell on a Dog, What is Skunk Odor?
A skunk’s spray is often a last-resort measure to scare away predators so that a skunk can escape. Often, skunks will deplete their scent gland on a single spray, leading to a very strong-smelling, lingering odor. Before a skunk sprays, it will display other behaviors to ward off the predator; stamping its feet, raising its tail, and finally, spraying.
Skunk spray is a thiol, or compound that has sulfur as part of it, giving the spray its distinct “skunk” smell. While the spray itself isn’t toxic or harmful, it is incredibly potent, and can sometimes be smelled from up to half a mile away. It’s certainly a memorable smell that will have your dog thinking twice before approaching again!
How To Keep Your Dog From Getting Sprayed
The best way to keep your dog from getting sprayed by a skunk is to keep them away from areas skunks frequent. It’s also a good idea to make your yard as unappealing to skunks as possible so they won’t want to take up residence. Block off holes or openings under decks, keep garbage lids secured, and remove brush that can hide critters more easily. If you do spot (or smell) a skunk, take note of where it likes to hide. It’s best to prevent your dog from accessing that area.
Skunks like to be out at dusk and dawn, so you can avoid letting your dog outside at these times. If you do have a skunk in your yard, keeping your dog on leash while outside can help avoid a spray. Blocking off an area for your dog to go potty in that is an open space without hiding spots can also discourage skunks from entering it. If skunks frequent your yard, you may want to leash your dog and walk them elsewhere to avoid an altercation.
What To Do if Your Dog Gets Sprayed
If your dog does get sprayed, don’t panic. You May want to set up a washing station in your backyard, as your dog can track the skunk spray onto household surfaces such as furniture and carpet. If any spray got into your dog’s eyes, quickly rinse them with cool water to help reduce irritation. You’ll also want to use gloves and wash your own clothes after removing the odor from your dog.
If your dog has been badly sprayed and is pawing at their face, mouth, ears, or eyes, this may be a sign of severe irritation. In this case, it is best to contact your veterinarian immediately. Your dog may need additional care such as medicated flushes that can be used on the eyes and ears without harm.
In addition to removing skunk smell from your dog, you may need to clean the odor
from your yard or house. You can wash any affected areas in the yard such as cement or furniture with a diluted bleach spray. Inside, opening all windows and boiling vinegar on the stove can help to deodorize. Clothes can be washed in a solution of baking soda and your regular detergent.
Many of the products that work on odors for your dog’s coat can also be used on furniture to help deodorize it. However, some of these, such as peroxide, may bleach surfaces so it is best to test them first. You may also need to apply these solutions multiple times to carpets or furniture, vacuuming or steam washing in between, before the odor is completely gone.
Does Tomato Juice Work for Skunk Smell on a Dog?
You’ve probably seen on TV or in a movie the famous tomato juice bath when a family pet gets sprayed. But, does this remedy actually work? While the strong smell of tomatoes may mask the smell of skunk spray, it actually does nothing to remove the underlying odor. After a short while, your dog will likely start smelling like a skunk once more. Instead of masking the odor, you want to use a home remedy or product that actually strips or breaks down the odor, especially if you have carpeting or upholstered furniture your dog enjoys sleeping on.
Steps to Remove Skunk Smell From Your Dog
Regardless of what product you use, or if you’re using a home remedy, there are many similar steps you’ll want to take.
First, set up a washing station. If your dog is badly sprayed, you may want to set up a hose or tub outside that is large enough to soak your dog in. If you can get your dog inside to the bathroom without stepping on carpet or furniture, set up there.
Once your dog is contained, mix the homemade solution or grab the product you’ll be using. You will want to apply these products 2-3 times, rinsing or soaking your dog in warm water between each. This will ensure that all of the skunk spray is removed.
Be sure to be gentle around your dog’s eyes and ears as shampoo solutions can cause more irritation. After the odor is gone from your dog’s fur, you can use their regular shampoo to help them smell fresh and not like the product you used. Bathe your dog as you normally would.
A good tip is to use a flea comb or other fine-toothed comb while applying the de-skunking solution to your dog’s fur. This will help it better penetrate thick coats. It will also ensure the product makes it all the way to your dog’s skin so there is no lingering residue. After drying your dog, towels can be tossed in the washer with a baking soda solution to remove any odors.
Home Remedies for Removing Skunk Odor
These home remedies can help remove odors quickly if you’re in a pinch or can’t get to the store:
Peroxide and Baking Soda
Peroxide and baking soda solutions work to break down sulfur odor particles. This solution is an excellent one to use in a pinch since it uses household items most people have already.
Mix 1 quart of hydrogen peroxide with ¼ cup of baking soda and a squirt of liquid dish soap (not the kind that goes in your dishwasher). Use the solution like you would a shampoo, being careful to not get any into your dog’s eyes. You may need to rinse and reapply a few times, making sure to get between your dog’s toes, under their tail, and around their ears depending on where they were sprayed. After a final rinse, wash your dog with their regular shampoo.
As this solution can cause gasses to form in the bottle, do not mix it ahead of time or attempt to store it. Dump any extra solution not used after washing and rinsing your dog’s coat. Peroxide may also bleach the fur, so dark-coated dogs may have some fur lightening in places the solution was used.
A solution of vinegar diluted with water can also help remove skunk smell from dogs. This solution can be used the same way as the peroxide and baking soda solution above. Wash it through your dog’s fur several times until the odor is gone, and then follow up with a rinse. From there, you can use your dog’s regular shampoo to remove any lingering odor or vinegar smell.
While you might want to mix vinegar with baking soda to create a stronger solution, you’ll actually be creating salt water! It won’t do much to remove the odor from your dog’s coat, so if you decide you want to use vinegar and baking soda both, alternate using them between rinsing.
Baking Soda Bath
If you have enough on hand, you can dissolve 2 to 4 cups of baking soda into a hot water bath. After the baking soda has fully dissolved, you’ll want to soak your dog in the tub for 15 to 20 minutes, using a cup to gently pour the solution over their back, neck, tail, and head. Be careful to not get the solution in their eyes or nose as it may cause irritation, but isn’t harmful.
Once your dog has soaked and the odor is gone, drain the tub and wash your dog with their regular shampoo. You may need to use the baking soda solution a few times, draining the old water and refilling it with new hot water, until the skunk odor is completely gone.
As noted above, if you want to also use diluted vinegar to remove odors be sure to alternate between baking soda soaks and the vinegar or the two will combine to create a saltwater solution instead.
Product Solutions for Skunk Spray
While home remedies are great in a pinch, these products can help remove odors quickly and easily. As with the home remedies, you’ll want to apply the product two or three times, rinsing between each to ensure it removes all of the spray.
Nature’s Miracle Skunk Odor Remover
Nature’s Miracle is a popular brand known for its hardworking stain and odor removers. Their enzymatic cleaners work by breaking down urine and stool scent particles to help deter accidents occurring in the same spot and remove odor fully.
Nature’s Miracle Skunk Odor Remover works on a similar principle to their cleaners. It’s an enzymatic cleaner that breaks down the thiols that create the sulfurous skunk smell. In addition, this product can also be safely used on carpeting and furniture, in case your dog got inside before you were able to wash them. Like the above home remedies, this product should be used on your dog’s body first, and then followed up with their regular shampoo.
As the name implies, Skunk Away (by Alpha Tech Pet) helps to remove skunk spray odors from your dog. Similar to Nature’s Miracle, it works by breaking down the thiols present in the spray that cause odor, rather than masking the smell. The product is also biodegradable and safe for the environment, so you can use it to wash your dog outside without worrying about nearby plants or wildlife being harmed.
You will need to add water to the bottle and give it a few shakes to dissolve the product, as it doesn’t come pre-mixed. Any remaining product will also need to be dumped after 48 hours to avoid gas build-up and possible explosion of the bottle, so it’s best to not mix or use the product until you need it.
R86 is an “Industrial Strength” odor remover that can be used for skunk smells in addition to other smells or stains in your house. The manufacturer does warn that it has an initial strong odor that will fade with time. While it is marketed for the home, it can be safely used on pets as well, however, reviewers recommend using it multiple times on dogs with double coats or thick fur as it doesn’t penetrate as well as other products. R86 can be used to deodorize furniture, bedding, carpet, and other household items in addition to washing your dog.
Removing skunk odor can be a smelly situation. Luckily, home remedies and products designed to break down odor particles can help keep your home and dog smelling fresh, even after being sprayed. Keeping your dog out of potential skunk spots and quickly addressing any odor issues will help keep Fido, and the skunks, happy.