Has your pet been sprayed by a skunk? Unfortunately, as a pet owner, this happens more frequently than we might like. After making sure your pet wasn’t bitten after a skunk attack (skunks often carry rabies), your next problem is now how to remove skunk smell from your pet. The skunk smell removal process is complicated and plagued by misinformation and unproven homemade remedies.
After my dog got sprayed by a skunk, I had an opportunity to try several different skunk smell removal techniques. What do you do after a pet gets sprayed by a skunk? Does tomato juice really work? Can over-the-counter products like Skunk Off and Nature’s Miracle Skunk Odor Remover save the day? Here’s how to remove skunk smell from your pets.
Help! My Dog Got Sprayed By A Skunk!
During the summer, my dog Brandy had an encounter with a little white striped four-legged stink machine. It was just past midnight on a weeknight and we were about to all go to bed. Just before we called it a night, I asked Brandy if she needed to go “pee-pee.” Brandy was sleeping next to the couch. Brandy slowly stretched, yawned, wagged (all at the same time) and sleepily waddled over to the door. That means “yes.” So Brandy walked out the backdoor, down the porch stairs and squatted down to pee in the yard.
About 5 seconds into her pee, I saw a white blur run-up to Brandy and then run away. Brandy immediately started wiping her face with her paw and then dropped to the ground and started rolling around in the grass. At this point, I wasn’t sure what just happened.
Brandy came back to the porch whimpering. As she got closer my nose told me exactly what had happened. Brandy got sprayed by a skunk while she was peeing. Poor dog. Imagine if someone sprayed you with fart spray while you were peeing.
Skunk Spray Distance
And here’s one of the most surprising parts of this skunk attack story: The skunk wasn’t really that close to my dog. Skunk spray distance has been measured up to 15 feet.
- A pet that’s covered in skunk spray
- A solution for removing skunk odor
- nose plug (optional)
01) First Aid: Was Your Pet Scratched or Bitten?
Of all of the terrible things that can happen to your pets, a skunk attack is more annoying than anything else. A skunk encounter isn’t exactly a life-threatening crisis, but it’s a crisis nonetheless.
Your first concern after a skunk attack should be your pets physical condition. Look for blood. Check them over for scratches and bites and if you find any, go see a vet as soon as possible. Remember, skunks can carry rabies.
Brandy’s left eye was so tightly shut that I first thought that whatever attacked her might have scratched her eye. Not a pretty thought. I gently forced open her eyelid to make sure her eye was still there and not scratched. Whew! No physical damage.
If your dog is scratched or bitten by a skunk, then you should go to a vet as soon as possible.
02) Preparing the Sprayed Area
Once you assess your pet’s physical condition, the next step is to prepare the sprayed area for treatment.
Brandy wasn’t physically injured, but the skunk sprayed the left side of her face including her eye. The skunk spray obviously stung so we immediately started gently flushing the area around her eye with the garden hose.
If you have a long hair dog, then you might want to trim the hair of some of the affected areas. That will also make your life easier with all the repeated pet bathing required to get rid of the smell.
03) The Skunk Smell Removal & The Tomato Juice Myth
We’ve all smelled a skunk before. But unless you’ve been up close, then you may not know how intense a fresh spray can be. It’s almost like a garlic dosed piece of burnt rubber. It’s strong enough to make your eyes water. Act quickly. The longer you take to act, the longer the skunk smell will stay with your pet.
When you tell someone that your pet was sprayed by a skunk, they will probably suggest that you give your pet a tomato juice or vinegar bath. Bad idea! Chemically speaking, neither tomato juice or vinegar has any relevant chemical capabilities to remove or breakdown skunk anal scent gland secretions. All they will do is mask the smell. And for heaven’s sake, please don’t use variations of tomato like ketchup, tomato soup or Clamato pasta sauce. Your pet isn’t a salad or pasta dish. Tomato juice is an urban myth. Don’t waste your time.
04) Over The Counter Skunk Odor Removal Products
Several companies make products that will help you remove (or reduce) skunk smell from your pets. Your local pet store should carry several brands for you to choose from including Skunk Off and Nature’s Miracle Skunk Odor Remover.
Skunk Off and Nature’s Miracle’s Skunk Odor Remover are both amazing products. After the first session of using a skunk odor removing shampoo my dog smelled 100x times better.
If you live in a heavily populated skunk area, like the woods, you might want to keep a couple of bottles of skunk odor remover in the house. Most of these “de-skunking” products contain natural enzymes that will help breakdown the skunk secretions and reduce the smell on your pet. This should be your ultimate goal. Masking the skunk odor is a battle you won’t win. And if left untreated, skunk odor can linger on for weeks. Yuck.
05) Emergency Homemade Solution
Unfortunately, Brandy got sprayed pretty late at night and all the nearby pet stores were closed. If you find yourself in this type of situation, you can find the following ingredients at your local 24-hour drug store and make a temporary homemade de-skunking remedy. You can thank Paul Krebaum, a chemist, for this little homemade recipe.
- 1 quart of 3% Hydrogen Peroxide
- 1/4 cup of Baking Soda
- 1 teaspoon of common kitchen liquid dish soap
Just mix the ingredients together into a bucket and lather up your pet. The mixture will fizz. Don’t combine the peroxide and baking soda in a bottle. It will explode like a Coke + Mentos rocket. Use a bucket.
06) The Washing Process
Be sure to keep any skunk odor removal solutions, homemade or commercial, away from your pet’s face and eyes. Use a washcloth if your pet was sprayed in the face. Also only bathe the affected areas. Skunk spray is like oil and will spread.
The directions say to combine the solution with a little water and gently shampoo your pet. Then let your pet dry and repeat. Luckily the day after she got sprayed was nice and sunny. Brandy and I were able to play fetch in between shampooing sessions in the backyard. Fun for her, but I had to take an emergency day off from work to do all the shampooing.
If you don’t have access to a 24-hour drug store or a bottle of professional skunk odor remover, then multiple shampooing sessions will help lessen the blow. Take your pet into the shower with you. Run lukewarm water and shampoo them a few times. This will also help lessen the potency of the skunk oil. But simply shampooing your pet won’t get rid of the skunk odor. You will still need to bathe your pet with a solution that will breakdown the skunk oil, which is comprised of low molecular weight thiol compounds.
Sorry, just soap and water won’t work.
NERD NOTE: Skunk spray and wet dog smells like burnt rubber.
07) Where to wash and put your pet and what to use/not use
When first attending to Brandy after the skunking, we grabbed a clean dishcloth and tried to wipe away as much skunk oil as possible. That rag later went into the trash. Removing concentrated skunk oil from fabrics is next to impossible. Remember Brandy’s first reaction after being sprayed was to wipe off the skunk oil and roll around everywhere. If Brandy was near a couch or an expensive Persian rug, she would have rolled on them to wipe off the skunk oil. So be sure to keep your skunky companion away from nice fabrics, clothing, and furniture… at least for a little while.
We made Brandy a temporary bed out of old towels for the next 24 hours and let her spend most of the day outside on the porch. She looked so depressed that I took a couple of pictures. Poor dog. 🙁
If your pet got sprayed during an excursion via an automobile, then you are in a tricky situation (especially if the car isn’t yours). Hopefully, you have an old blanket in the car that you can use to protect the seats. The last thing you want is fresh skunk oil secretions on car upholstery. And don’t forget to roll down the windows for the ride home.
Ideally, you should wear rubber gloves before handling a sprayed pet. The skunk oil will stay on your hands. Trust me. My hands still had a slight skunky burnt rubber smell on them 3 days later. But after Brandy got attacked, her physical condition was my main concern at the time. I didn’t even bother with gloves. My coworkers just had to deal with my smelly rubber hands for a few days.
08) The Aftermath: How Long Does Skunk Odor Last?
Prepare yourself. For the next few months, whenever your pet gets wet, they will smell a little skunky. How long does skunk odor last? Brandy was still a little stinky 3 months later, but only if you got real close. Stink or no stink, I still love her.
Dogs Are More Likely To Be Victims Of A Skunk Attack
Although cats, pigs, horses, and other pets have all been victims of a skunk attack, dogs are more likely to be sprayed by a skunk. Unfortunately for us, dog owners, the natural curiosity of our canine companions often puts them on the wrong end of some skunk spray.
Rural pets have it worse than city dogs, but even city dogs can get sprayed by a skunk. City dogs frequently join us on weekend getaways or camping vacations and thus increase their chances of being downwind from a skunk’s anal scent glands.
So be prepared for a skunk attack situation. Know where to go for both medical care as well as skunk smell removal products, like Skunk Off. Unfortunately, a skunk attack isn’t a matter of if, but when.