Got Skunked?

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The azaleas and dogwoods are in bloom, and everything is green. Spring brings many great things, but as wildlife becomes more active, your dog’s chances of encountering a skunk increase.  Typically, your dog will end up the foul-smelling loser of such an encounter.

Skunk spray is very oily, which causes it to cling to your dog’s coat, and contains sulfer. There are commercial remedies available to get rid of the odor, but they might be hard to come by when you need them, and they don’t all work well. This old “dog person” remedy is very effective.

If your dog has been skunked, the first thing you need to do is to put on rubber or latex gloves and carefully examine him for scratches or bite wounds. If you find any, consult your vet before doing anything else. If you don’t find any injuries, then move on to odor removal.

You will need one quart of hydrogen peroxide 3 percent (U.S.P.). Make sure it’s not old or expired, as it loses its effectiveness over time. You also need 1/4 cup baking soda, and one to two teaspoons of liquid detergent. I highly recommend Dawn dishwashing liquid, as it is formulated to break up oil, which is a component of the skunk spray.

You’ll also need a clean plastic mixing container, clean plastic utensils for mixing and protective eye ointment or mineral oil for your dog’s eyes. To protect yourself while you clean, wear latex or rubber gloves, a protective apron and eye goggles if available.

It’s important that you wash your dog as soon as possible, as the longer you wait, the harder it is to remove the odor. If you live in an area where your dog is likely to be sprayed, it’s a good idea to have all the materials you will need put together and stored as your “skunk kit,” being careful to keep the peroxide up to date.

Choose the bathing location carefully. It’s best if you can bathe your dog outside, but if you have to bring him in, choose an area of the house you can clean easily and be sure you open a window.

To get started, don your protective gear and apply lubricant or one to two drops of mineral oil to your dog’s eyes. This will help soothe the sting of any spray in them and also help protect the eyes in case any of the solution splashes or drips into his eyes.

As you mix the ingredients, you will be creating a chemical reaction that will break up the oils and neutralize the odor. Be sure you to use a plastic container and utensils, as metal can alter the reaction.  In the container, combine the hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and dish detergent. If you’re treating a very large dog, you can add up to a quart of lukewarm water if needed.  Mix the ingredients well. The solution will fizz as the chemical reaction occurs.

Don’t soak your dog with water but immediately begin massaging the mixture into his coat, being careful not to get the solution into his eyes, ears or mouth.  You can use a sponge or washcloth to help if you choose. Once you have massaged it into the coat, allow it to remain on him for at least five minutes; longer if the strong odor persists.  Then rinse him completely with lukewarm water.

If he still has an odor, mix up more solution and wash him again, as many times as necessary. The number of washings required will depend, in part, on how much spray your dog initially received and how long it sat on his coat before the cleansing process began.

There are a few very important warnings that need to accompany this information. First of all, do not substitute the sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) with baking powder, washing powder or any similar substance, and do not use Hydrogen Peroxide stronger than 3 percent.  You are creating a chemical reaction, and use of the wrong products can create a mixture that can harm you and/or your dog. It’s also important that you don’t put this mixture into a spray bottle, as the pressure will build up and the bottle could burst.

You also should not make the solution ahead of time, or store any leftover solution, for the same reason.  The mixture might also slightly lighten your dog’s coat and can bleach fabric as well.

I hope you never need to test this recipe, but should the worst occur, be encouraged.  While I have never had to use it myself, I have many colleagues who swear by its effectiveness!

Karlene Turkington, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, is a lifelong animal lover who has been training dogs for over 20 years. Readers are welcome to send their questions to: info@TrainMyK-9.com  Information provided here is a basic overview of issues. Specific health or behavioral concerns should be discussed with your veterinarian or qualified animal trainer or behaviorist.

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