Several years ago I came home late one night and as I always did I let Sam the dog out into the backyard before going to bed. I remember opening the back kitchen door and Sam leaping into the darkness and then a flash of fur and growling. There was suddenly a sickening sensation of burning ammonia all over my face. Sam had jumped a skunk and the frightened animal had spayed the dog, me and the kitchen.
Skunk spray that close up is nothing like the scrunch-up-your-nose smell from the highway- one moment there, the next moment gone. Skunk that close up burns your eyes, your nose, your mouth and your lungs.
In the spring time most dog owner know to start keeping their eyes peeled at night for the pretty pointy-nosed black and white striped common skunk. These near-sighted nocturnal creatures leave their dens at dark looking for small rodents and reptiles to eat. They also eat insects, larvae and grubs, which they will merrily dig up from your front lawn with their sharp little claws.
Skunks also enjoy dining on garbage so don't assume it's been a raccoon that's been ripping open your trash bags. They will take the same route every night as they forage for food.
Skunks typically have four to five dens within a square kilometer. If you think you have a skunk living on your property check to see if he has a den under your front step, your front porch, back deck, underneath your shed, your garage, your wood pile or anywhere else that does not have a foundation.
If you see a skunk leaving a den site don't think that you can just board up the hole and the problem is solved. Professional pest control workers, experts in wildlife, should be called. Bill Dowd, president of Humane Wildlife Control states,"Homeowners cannot be plugging up holes in the spring because there is potential of babies under there." Babies, called kits, are born in April and May and can spray at a young age.
If there's time, a threatened skunk will give warning by hissing, stamping its feet and raising its tail before spraying the repulsive smelling chemical produced by its anal scent glands. Most people know enough to either stand still or slowly back away as the skunk moves off but for most dogs, their reactions to a skunk is to pounce. Cats seem to be a bit smarter but sometimes their curious nature gets the better of them and they too get sprayed.
So what is the first thing you should do if your pet has been sprayed? Veterinarian Dr. Al Taylor of Galt Animal Hospital says,"Make sure that your pet doesn't have any bite wounds or puncture wounds or anything like that. The main concern really is rabies and making sure that pets are fully vaccinated against rabies. One of the concerns we have is that skunks with rabies do not always act sick." If your animal does have any wounds it is vital that you contact your vet for advice, if your vet is not available contact the nearest after hours veterinarian clinic.
Try not to bring your pet into the house as the odor tends to cling to anything it comes into contact with. If you have to put them in the car see if you can lay down newspaper on the car seat.
Tomato juice has been a traditional remedy but in my own experience it only made our dog smell like skunk salad. When our dog Sam was sprayed I panicked an used spaghetti sauce which didn't make any difference what so ever.
As stated in the beginning of the article brew up a double strong batch of coffee and pour it into a bucket and mix it with cold water (or ice cubes) to make it room temperature or colder but try not to over dilute. Do NOT pour hot coffee over your pet the coffee must be room temperature or colder. Try to find exactly where on your pet they have been sprayed and concentrate on this area. Pour the cold coffee over your animal and let it sit on their fur for at least 10 minutes. Wash out with a deodorant soap.
If they are wearing a collar get rid of it as you will probably never get the scent out. I also used mouth wash around our dog's nose and mouth which did work but she really disliked this.(I'm not sure if it was because she did not like the smell of the mouth wash or if she just didn't like me washing her face).
The odd thing about skunk spray is that just as you think that is is all gone, the odor will become overpowering again, as if it has a scent boost that happens every 15 minutes or so. You might have to wash them with coffee a second time. Try dying them off the best you can with a towel that you don't mind will get ruined from the colour of the coffee and then give them a treat, they probably feel miserable.
The odor of skunk will dissipate in about a week and generally a once sprayed dogs will leave skunks alone and cats will definitely not go near them again.
As for me the experience of being sprayed in the face has truly left and impression on me, when our dog Scribbles was sprayed last year I could honestly look at her and say,"I know exactly how you feel."
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Copyright Ingrid Talpak 2009