Skunk Spray Health Effects and Getting Rid of Smell

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In cartoons, skunks like P├ępe Le Pew are love struck, entertaining and seem like a load of fun. In real life, skunks can be a complete nuisance to gardeners, homeowners, business owners and pets.

What are Skunks on the Prowl For?

Beneficial Nematodes or milky spore disease (also called Paenibacillus popillae) may be able to stop skunks from digging up three- to four-foot holes in gardens, eating garden vegetables and searching for some of their favorite meals. While gardeners may think it's corn they're after; it's really the other pests found in gardens that they want: beetles, crickets, field mice, grasshoppers, house mice, potato beetle grubs, rabbits, rats, and worms.

What Made the Skunk Spray?

But what happens when someone tries to get rid of a skunk and comes face to face with the animal? Quiet as it's kept, it's not a 100 percent chance that skunks will spray every single person or animal who gets near them. While humans certainly won't get as close to a skunk as say a fenced-in dog or roaming cat, it is very possible for both parties to stroll on by each other without the skunk ever lifting its tail.

Skunks tend to use that smelly defensive option only when they feel threatened. Even a grizzly bear will take heed to a nervous skunk, but the skunk will issue warnings before unleashing that odorous memory. It may stomp its clawed feet, turn around, point its anal area towards the threat, and if the subject continues to come near, all hail the spray.

Should a Sprayed Pet Be Let Indoors for Safety?

If the subject of that threat happens to be a dog or cat, the pet owner will suffer. It's not like the pet owner can dodge getting close to the pet. There's still the matter of housing the animal, feeding it and giving it water, and taking care of any health issues.

While it is highly not recommended for the pet to be brought indoors and leave the scent all over the house, an owner may have no choice if the pet continues its war with a revisiting skunk. Opt for a basement or sheltered area under the porch, assuming the skunk has not already made a home of this area. (Skunks also will commonly find housing in dark places where there's plenty of wood, less foot traffic and the ability to quietly take care of its new or upcoming family of more skunks.)

Biggest Health Risks of Skunk Spray

While the natural reaction may be to bathe a pet to try to get rid of the smell, the mixture of thiols, thioacetates, and a methylquinoline in the skunk spray can make the smell worse. Coincidentally enough, skunks do not have very good vision, and when a victim is sprayed by a skunk, they may suffer from temporary blindness and squinting. That's on top of ocular swelling, drooling, redness, vomiting and sneezing.

Although not nearly as common as discomfort, dogs can suffer from a form of anemia due to oxidative damage to red blood cells thiol components in the spray. So far, there has only been one documented death of a dog from a skunk spray, but illnesses are not a foreign result. Japanese dogs like Akitas, Tosas, and Shiba Inus get hit the hardest. Cat owners may be relieved to find out that there is no documented anemia for felines from skunk spray.

Getting Rid of the Skunk Smell on a Pet
Home Remedies to Get Rid of Skunk Smell

The home remedies to keep skunks away from gardens range from:

  • Castor oil
  • Cucumbers
  • Lemon peels
  • Soapy dishwashing detergent
  • Mothballs
  • Mustard oil
  • Oranges
  • Squash

Tomato juice and vinegar are commonly thought of as ways to make the smell disappear, but this concoction is a bit like using perfume over a musty body. It may fool the victim into thinking the smell is gone, but give it a little bit of time, and that horrid smell will creep right back up.

If Home Remedies Don't Work

First off, take care of the eyes. While skunks will commonly spray a pet's face, it is next to impossible to clear that area without getting even more toxic chemicals into the pet's eyes by using shampoos. Eye solution from a nearby drugstore, however, is intended for the eyes. While it will do nothing for the smell, it will at least clear the eyes of vision damage.

While many pet sites encourage getting a dog to a veterinarian immediately, the first thing that a pet owner will worry about is how to possibly get the animal into the car without making the entire car smell like that skunk odor. After handling the eye irritation, give the dog a thorough bath with easy-to-find products like baking soda, peroxide, and liquid hand soap. These products are not poisonous and will not potentially harm the dog any further should the dog decide to touch its mouth to its fur.

Other odd suggestions include feminine hygiene products, but that never quite caught on as much as the other home remedies. Tampons aren't the only thing that contain pesticides. Carcinogens from fragrances in feminine hygiene products also affect allergies and may lead to physical irritants.

Getting in Touch with the Veterinarian

Schedule an appointment with the veterinarian soon after bathing it to make sure the skunk is not rabid and there is no harm to the nose, mouth or further damage to the eyes. If the dog or cat's face is completely wet from first glance, it's recommended to call the veterinarian first.

If the solution works well enough to successfully bathe the dog, then proceed in that order. If the are any signs of biting or a fight with the skunk, skip the bath and get the pet to the vet immediately. A pet owner may just have to wrap the dog (or the backseat) as much as possible, open all of the windows and have the longest ride ever to a pet professional.

The veterinarian will more than likely have suggested skunk spray removal brands that should work best. If the pet owner already knows that a product works, go for it. If not, this is as good a time as any to get a variety of safe skunk removal products. Ask the veterinarian for options and bathe away.