What is Porcupine Quills ?
Dog owners who take their companions into forested areas of North America may encounter a porcupine on occasion. Primarily nocturnal animals, it is not uncommon to see these animals during the day. Porcupines may be seen on their search for nourishment out in open spaces, or can be discovered when a curious canine pokes his nose into a porcupine den.
Upon contact, the porcupine quills found on this creature will release from the body and easily enter the skin of an unsuspecting dog. A porcupine has over 30,000 quills covering the body. Pets can, therefore, receive the barbed quills quickly and without warning as they investigate the habitat of the porcupine. The quills have barbs that appear smooth upon entry but are designed by nature with backward barbs, making removal difficult at best.
Porcupine quill removal must be done by a qualified veterinarian due to the difficulty of the procedure. Secondary complications can result with improper or incomplete removal. Leaving the quills in for some time before making a veterinarian visit is not recommended either, for the same reason.
The proper removal of porcupine quills, which can become embedded in the face and body of your canine, is best done by your veterinarian while your pet is under anesthesia. Improper removal of quills can lead to secondary complications and also result in extreme pain for your dog.
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Symptoms of Porcupine Quills in Dogs
The effects of porcupine quill removal can be felt immediately upon entry into the skin. Contrary to popular belief, the porcupine does not shoot his quills. The needles are released as contact is made. Some of the most common symptoms recorded in dogs after the quill enters the body are listed here. Symptoms will vary depending on where the quill entered.
- Head shaking
- Pawing at the face
- Visible trauma at quill entry point
- Quills protruding from the eyes, nose, face, trunk, limbs, neck and oral cavity (palate, gingiva)
Causes of Porcupine Quills in Dogs
- Porcupines are known to be active typically at dawn and dusk
- These animals forage for food and mate more often in the summer
- The direction of the barbs makes it difficult to remove them
- Quills can cause infection in the skin
- Quills can migrate to organs
- Quills can move into the brain, though a rare occurrence
- The porcupine can release tens to hundreds of quills into the body of another animal
- Improper removal of a quill can lead to tissue damage and further trauma
Diagnosis of Porcupine Quills in Dogs
In order to avoid complications like loss of tissue, scarring, and secondary infection, porcupine quills must be removed as soon as possible by a veterinarian. Diagnosis is based on clinical signs, which will be obvious. What may not be easily seen is the path that a quill can take upon migration if not removed quickly.
Contact your veterinarian for an appointment as soon as you realize that your dog has become the victim of porcupine quill exposure. As you make your way to the hospital it will be helpful if a family member can accompany you or drive you there while you comfort your pet and prevent him from rubbing at his face. Pressure on the quills can result in breakage, and this can cause the quills to be more difficult to remove or may enable the quills to migrate inward, deeper into the skin and tissue.
When you arrive at the clinic, the veterinary team may ask questions pertaining to the health of your pet, such as recent illnesses or behavioral changes. It will be helpful to the veterinarian if you can provide the time of the incident because a long delay in removal may have allowed some of the quills to become embedded in the skin, or to even have worked their way out of sight. Depending on the condition of your pet when he arrives at the clinic, his age, and his health history, the veterinarian may do basic blood tests to evaluate your pet’s health condition and to guide the team as to what sort of anesthesia (local or general) will be used to facilitate the removal of the porcupine quills.
Treatment of Porcupine Quills in Dogs
Once your dog is under anesthesia, the veterinarian will be able to take a close look at the entire body to determine exactly where the quills are located. She will check all areas including inside the oral cavities, between the toes, the chest, and areas where the fur is thick. Prompt removal will be the goal as quills have the ability to migrate fairly quickly into the tissues of the skin, and are known to become more rigid as time passes, increasing the risk of breakage during removal.
A pet who is under a general anesthesia will be completely relaxed and pain free. This factor allows for a thorough check of the body and an easier removal process. In addition, there may be cases where a small incision needs to be made in the skin in order to remove the quill. Quill entry in an ocular location is possible as well; if this is the case with your dog, the veterinarian will be able to perform a thorough examination and call in a specialist if need be. Surgical removal of an eye (enucleation) may be necessary if the porcupine quill has penetrated the eye and caused damage that can be dangerous.
Many instances of porcupine quills in dogs can require a follow-up visit. Cases of abscess, unknown migration of a quill, or multiple visits due to the sheer number of quills received are not common, but possible. Records show that quills left untreated for over 24 hours may increase the risk of an abscess that requires drainage. Depending on the condition of your dog, antibiotics and pain medication could be prescribed.
Recovery of Porcupine Quills in Dogs
Fortunately, most cases of porcupine quills in dogs will involve the straightforward removal of the quills under anesthesia. It should be noted though, that dogs often do not learn from the first encounter with this animal that porcupines are best avoided. Repeat encounters are common. Because of this fact, it is highly recommended that dog owners avoid walking their canine companions in locations where porcupines are known to frequent or are commonly sighted.
Once your pet is home from the clinic, be certain to monitor him for days to weeks afterward, watching out for behavioral changes or discomfort, in the chance that a quill migrated within the body before removal took place, or in case a point of entry happens to become infected as a secondary complication.
Porcupine Quills Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My dog just had some quills removed but the vets were extremely lazy and didn't bother to look around to see if there were anymore... The past three days i have found a total of three under his chin! Today I've just yanked out one and now am worried there might be more because there's a small bump. Is this normal after? I basically paid two vets who billed me 180.00 to walk around half hammered and legit poke around and didn't care.. they yanked out what they only wanted and told me the bill and to go home and come back if there were more.
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20 quils in the face with some broken off inside the face of the dog, how much would it be to get them out been in his face for 3-5 dayside is in pain and his face is also swelling.
Prices for the cost of removing porcupine quills from the face of a dog vary widely from a few hundred dollars to a few thousands; the length of time since the injury will mean that there is more swelling than if you had rushed to an Emergency Veterinarian within an hour, plus possible complications from secondary infection etc… your location will also have a bearing on cost. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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