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Dog cleaning shampoo outside

The essentials

  • Skunk spray isn’t typically dangerous, except to your nostrils — But don’t take it lightly, it can be harmful.
  • Purchase a skunk smell remover or make one — There are commercial and home remedies for removing the smell of skunk spray.
  • Avoid letting your dog roam in the yard at night —By following a few tips, you and your dog can avoid skunk.

Very little is black and white in the world, but one unmistakable exception is the common skunk and its trademark smell. Being elusive creatures, you may only see one in the wild, especially if you live near a wooded area. But with a scent that can water eyes over a mile away, you’re probably familiar with the smell. Like most small mammals, skunks make great targets for unsuspecting dogs, and the smell is unmistakable if your dog gets sprayed. Here’s what pet owners need to know about removing the skunk smell from their dog and how to avoid it.

Removing skunk spray smell from your dog

Left untreated, the smell from skunk spray can last for days or weeks. Unfortunately, old-school remedies such as tomato juice or oatmeal baths aren’t helpful. They don’t break down the odorous chemicals, called thiols, in skunk spray and only temporarily mask the smell.

🚨Water binds with the chemicals in skunk spray, making the odor stronger. Because of this, it’s essential to break down the oils first.

First, check your dog

Before you do any cleaning, first check your dog for injuries. If they’ve been bitten or scratched by the skunk, take them to the vet immediately. Make sure your dog is up to date on their vaccinations since skunks can carry rabies and other diseases.

It’s extremely common for dogs to get sprayed in the face by a skunk, especially since their spray can reach up to 15 feet. If your dog’s eyes look irritated or red, flush them with eye wash or solution, or water to clear the irritant. Inhaling the skunk’s spray can also cause respiratory irritation. Additionally, nausea, drooling, and vomiting can result from it getting into their mouth. In severe (but rare) cases, ingesting skunk spray can cause fatal anemia .

The Heinz body anemia (methemoglobinemia) that can result from the ingestion or inhalation of the larger quantities of the skunk spray can be fatal and should be treated and can show up within 12-24 hours. But it is a more rare condition that has to be monitored closely for as we do in veterinary hospitals and clinics. I personally worried more for eye damage and throat irritation as it's like severe pepper spray or mace spray irritant.

Dr. Bruce Armstrong

👉 Keep your dog outside to prevent them from rubbing the skunk scent into the furniture — this can be extremely difficult to remove.

Use professional skunk smell remover

The best solution is a professional skunk smell remover. You can buy these online, at pet supply stores, or from a vet. Many of these products bind with the odor-causing chemical, effectively removing the skunk smell.

The temporary treatments are just that, temporary. Even professional products may require multiple treatments as the phenols soak in the hair. Homemade formulas with tomato juice, dish soap, and hydrogen peroxide provide some quick partial resolution, but in my opinion, nothing beats the commercially prepared products.

Dr. Bruce Armstrong
  • Skunk-Off Liquid Soaker. With thousands of positive reviews, pet owners say this product eliminates skunk odors in minutes on their pets and in their homes.
  • Bodhi Dog Skunk Shampoo. It helps remove the skunk smell by neutralizing odors. With over 3k positive 5-star reviews, owners say the shampoo works well to remove the skunk smell.
  • Skout’s Honor: Skunk Odor Eliminator. Eco-friendly and cruelty-free, this product breaks down the oils from the skunk spray on pets, carpets, and other household surfaces. Owners say it is the best option they’ve used, but they mention closely following the directions.
  • Nature’s Miracle Skunk Odor Remover. While not for use on pets, this fast-acting spray breaks down oils, neutralizing and eliminating odors. Dog owners say this spray works within minutes to remove skunk odor from surfaces.
  • Nature’s Miracle Skunk Odor Control Shampoo & Conditioner. With almost 5 stars, pet owners say this shampoo completely eliminated the skunk smell. Some say this was the only product that worked to remove the odor.

Washing away the skunk spray

Make a DIY solution

You might not have time to buy or order a skunk odor remover shampoo. You can create an effective odor remover at home. To do this, you need ingredients to neutralize the thiols in the skunk spray.

This DIY skunk spray contains hydrogen peroxide, which can lighten your dog’s fur with prolonged exposure. To avoid irritation, limit applications to 5 minutes at a time and keep the solution out of your dog’s eyes. Also, keep the solution away from the mouth since hydrogen peroxide can cause gastrointestinal upset, vomiting, diarrhea, and difficulty breathing.

Here’s how to make a DIY solution to remove skunk smell:

  • 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide
  • ¼ cup of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of liquid dish detergent
  • Large mixing bucket
  • Rubber gloves

How to apply it to your dog

Applying the DIY skunk remover to your dog is different from a regular bath. This is because the chemicals (thiols) in skunk spray are not water soluble, so a regular bath isn’t effective. A homemade mixture of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda neutralizes these chemicals that can’t be rinsed out.

Applying this solution to your dog outdoors is best to avoid getting it (and the skunk spray smell) everywhere. Since thiols are notoriously difficult to eliminate, you might experience a slight resurgence of the odor during future bathing. Eventually, that, too, will disappear.

  1. Put on your rubber gloves and mix the ingredients in the large bucket.
  2. Apply to your dog’s fur. After your skunk spray solution has thoroughly seeped into your dog’s fur (after 5 minutes), rinse with water.
  3. You may need repeat applications to remove the smell. If you have it handy, use dog shampoo with your final water rinse to help with a lingering odor.
  4. Hand towel your dog to dry them thoroughly.

🚨 Do not make the DIY solution and store it. The chemical reaction results in gas buildup, causing it to burst. It’s also flammable. Use it up or discard it after use.

Remember to thoroughly clean your clothes by adding half a cup of baking soda to your laundry detergent, or wear old clothes you can throw away. Avoid using hydrogen peroxide due to bleaching.

👉 If you’re in a bind, use vinegar diluted in water. It’s less effective than the above home remedy but may help reduce the smell.

What is skunk spray?

While nothing is comparable to skunk spray, certain substances have a molecular makeup that closely resembles the smell of skunk spray, which is why they share a similar odor. These include burning rubber, gas leaks, marijuana, sewage, and sulfur leaks.

If your dog has been rolling around in trash or near gases or burning materials, their fur may have picked up the scent. The odors often consist of the same organic compounds found in skunk spray, meaning you can eliminate them using similar methods.

Is skunk spray harmful?

Fortunately, skunk spray usually isn’t a serious health threat to dogs or people because the amount of spray is generally low. However, exceptional cases have arisen with spray, causing more severe health issues in dogs, such as anemia .

It can also be a general irritant if absorbed in the eyes or other mucous membranes, like the nose or mouth. If your dog got a little too close to the skunk and was the recipient of claw swipes or bites, the spray could also irritate these wounds. Take your dog to the vet if you notice any cuts, claw marks, bite wounds, or persistent eye irritation or discharge.

How to avoid getting sprayed

Skunks usually spray as a last resort and prefer to escape danger without confrontation. Threatened skunks hiss, stomp, raise their tail, and show other signs of feeling threatened before using their primary defense mechanism, spraying. After spraying, their glands take almost two weeks to refill before they can spray again.

If you’ve gone through the process of cleaning your pup after skunk spray exposure, you’ll probably never want to go through that experience again. Here are a few tips to avoid skunks and their spray.

Not-so-close encounters — Whether you encounter a skunk on a hike or in your backyard, it’s unlikely they’ll spray unless they are defending their young or seriously threatened. If you see one, stop, slowly step back so you’re at least 15 feet away, and go in the other direction.

Watch the time — Skunks are nocturnal animals, so avoid letting your dog roam in wooded areas after dark. They’re also ‌more active in warmer months when they mate and forage for food. They are inherently gentle but become more docile come winter to stay warm.

Block entrances — Skunks make their dens underground or in rotted logs. But they will happily reside under decks, porches, or around sheds — anywhere that protects them from the elements. Fence off or block small entrances that might seem appealing and eliminate potential food sources.

Ironically, skunks don’t like pungent smells either. If you know or suspect you have one living nearby, try putting black pepper, chili, coffee grounds, or vinegar out on your property. You can also try planting citrus-scented plants or trees, lavender, or peppermint around your home.

Stay alert to your pup’s behavior and typical habits to prevent them from becoming a skunk-spraying target. Keep your dog close, especially at night when skunks are most active. If your dog gets sprayed, you can use a homemade solution or a professional spray. If you notice any wounds or irritation, take your dog to the vet immediately.

Frequently asked questions

What do I do if my dog gets sprayed by a skunk?

Keep them outside while getting the smell off. This prevents them from tracking the smell in your home and potentially getting it on furniture or other surfaces. If you notice any wounds or irritation, take them to the vet and monitor them for unusual behavior.

How long will skunk smell last on a dog?

The oils in a skunk’s spray can last up to 3 weeks on your dog. If your dog gets sprayed, don’t wait until it dries. This makes it harder to remove completely.

How do you get a skunk smell off a dog’s face?

You can use a professional skunk remover, a shampoo, or a homemade solution. Whatever you use, be careful not to get it in their eyes or mouth.

Can skunk spray kill a dog?

If the skunk spray gets into your dog’s mouth, it can cause nausea and vomiting and, in more serious cases, may cause rare but fatal anemia .

Is waiting before bathing a dog to remove the skunk smell okay?

After your dog gets sprayed, immediately bathe your dog with a professional skunk spray, shampoo, or DIY solution. Getting the smell out will be more challenging once the chemicals dry and bind to the fur.