No odor is more recognized, more nose-wrinkling or more difficult to wash away than that of skunk spray. Skunks spray when threatened and can aim their foul-smelling liquid defense at targets up to 10 feet away. That horrible smell is due to chemical compounds in the skunk’s scent glands known as thiols and thioacetates. Thiols are composed of sulfur and hydrogen and have that “rotten egg” odor we all know. Thioacetates are actually activated when exposed to water, so attempting to remove skunk spray can be particularly difficult. The compounds are not toxic, but they can cause irritation to the skin and eyes and may even cause temporary blindness.
Unless you have no sense of smell, nobody wants a skunked dog or cat anywhere near them let alone inside their house; so, what do you do if your pet is sprayed by a skunk? Since those thioacetates are activated by water and the compounds are oily and difficult to remove, a bath with plain soap and water is not likely to help at all. There are many commercial products designed to remove skunk odor and many recipes for solutions to remove the awful smell. The main ingredients used to neutralize the skunk’s spray are baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. These are often mixed with de-greasing dish detergents and vinegar to up the odor-killing power.
Try to bathe your pet as soon as possible after she has been skunked as the odor becomes more difficult to remove the longer it remains on the fur. Flush your pet’s eyes with water if he has been sprayed in the face. Soak your pet in your skunk-odor-removing solution of choice for 15-20 minutes. You may need to repeat treatment with skunk remover multiple times to make the odor bearable. Tomato juice may also help, but it is not as effective at removing the odor as the hydrogen peroxide/baking soda/dish soap combo.
The following seems to be the most common concoction used for skunk odor removal found on multiple online sites: Mix one quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide + 1/4 cup baking soda with 1 teaspoon liquid dish detergent.
Skunks can also carry the rabies virus, so, if you see a skunk moving around during the day, if the skunk seems unfazed by you or your pet approaching it, or if the skunk seems aggressive, steer clear and make sure your pet stays up to date on his rabies vaccine in case of an accidental encounter. Hopefully, your pet will never experience being skunked; however, for those unlucky few, hopefully, this information will get your pet smelling sweet again!
This blog brought to you by the Patton Veterinary Hospital serving Red Lion, York and the surrounding communities.