When Fido meets the neighborhood skunk, the skunk usually wins. You and your dog definitely lose. The smell may be enough to knock you out cold, other possible medical complications take priority when you're dealing with skunk spray.
Eye and Sinus Irritation
Your first instinct may be to treat the smell, but hold your horses and your breath, and focus on your dog’s face, which is where dogs usually take a direct hit. Check his eyes, nose and mouth. The chemicals in skunk spray irritate and, if inhaled, can inflame the lining of the nose, throat and lungs. Immediately rinse your dog’s face with clean water. If, after you've rinsed, the dog has red eyes or breathing troubles, visit the veterinarian, who'll check for possible damage and treat as needed. If your dog swallowed some of the oils, vomiting may be an issue.
Rabies is another concern with a skunk encounter. Approximately 20 percent of all animals tested annually for rabies in the United States are skunks, according to the VCA Animal Hospitals website. Check your dog thoroughly for bite marks and visit the vet if you see evidence. If you live in an area populated with skunks, make sure to keep your dog’s rabies vaccination current.
Anemia and Death
Though rare, skunk spray has been linked to severe anemia and death in dogs. Chemical testing shows skunk spray destroys the oxygen-carrying ability in red blood cells. A dog described in a 2005 study in the "Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association" showed a link between skunk spray and methemoglobinemia. According to the National Institutes of Health, methemoglobinemia is a blood disorder whereby increased methemoglobin -- a type of hemoglobin unable to release oxygen -- is produced. Symptoms included lethargy, weakness, balance issues and black feces. These symptoms, or changes in your dog's normal behavior or health, warrant a vet's attention.
Cleaning Your Dog
After you've ensured your dog's well-being, tackle the smell. Contrary to the old wives' tale, tomato juice doesn’t cut it. Skunk spray smell is a combination of as many as seven different compounds. The thick yellow oil smells stronger when it gets wet. Special shampoos designed for skunk spray exist, but chances are you won’t have any in your cupboard. For a homemade remedy, combine 1 part baking soda to 3 to 4 parts hydrogen peroxide. Add 1 teaspoon of grease-cutting dish detergent, which helps break down the oil. The peroxide and baking soda change the oil’s chemical structure and reduce the odor. Apply the mix to your dog’s coat when it's still bubbling. Do not get this mixture near the eyes or mouth. For this area, wash with soap first and apply a mixture of 50 percent vinegar and 50 percent water.
Cleaning Your Home
If your dog made it into the house, you may have skunk oil on your furniture, carpets and elsewhere. Hydrogen peroxide can bleach fabric, so this is not an option unless you mind losing color in some areas. Wash these areas with dish soap and water to break up the oil, then apply a mixture of 50 percent vinegar and 50 percent water to help neutralize the odor.
- HealthyPet.com: Skunk Smell
- MyPetED: What Can I Do if My Dog Is Sprayed by a Skunk?
- VCA Animal Hospitals: Skunk Spray and Your Dog
- Vinegar Tips: Pets
- Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association: Heinz Body Anemia in a Dog That Had Been Sprayed With Skunk Musk
- National Institutes of Health: Methemoglobinemia
- Ablestock.com/AbleStock.com/Getty Images