It was 2 am and the pup I was watching for a friend needed to go potty. I sleepily followed Alley's fluffy tail as she skipped down the stairs and impatiently waited at the back door. Without thinking, I flipped on the backyard spotlight and opened the door. It happened in less than a minute. She bolted down the fence line and out of sight, crashing through the bushes and trampling my tomato plants. I didn't even have time to register what she was chasing after when the odor hit me. It was a combination of rotten onions and burning plastic. The scent didn't smell like a skunk at first; it was just too pungent and assaulted all my senses. Poor Alley came racing back into the house sneezing and shaking her head (which, unfortunately, showered my back door and tile floor with skunk oil). I literally froze in panic.
Skunked. The dog got skunked. At 2am on a Monday. This was going to be a long week.
So, Your Dog Got Skunked. Now What?
First of all, don’t freeze and panic like I did. The quicker you take action, the less likely you will need to Febreze the entire house. Second, get the dog back outside ASAP, preferably prevent them from entering the house in the first place. Skunks can spray up to 15 feet, and they aim for the face; so, if your pup was gleefully chasing the black and white "kitty," they probably got a face-full of yuck. The first thing they will want to do is rub their faces on everything to try and rid themselves of the spray. This means your carpet, couches, walls, etc., are fair game. The oily spray is produced by the anal glands of the skunk and is made up of sulfurous chemicals called thiols. The oil penetrates any porous surface and can last up to a year if not quickly eradicated.
If your dog did get sprayed in the face, quickly and thoroughly flush their eyes, mouth, and ears with cool water. Then, it's bath time. Most likely the first of many. If the weather is warm, bathing your pup outside is the best option.
There are many de-skunking homemade shampoos and many types of store-bought products to try. Some work. Some are just old wives' tales. However, I did find some tried and true home remedies to efficiently break down the chemicals in the skunk oil. You could also plan ahead (I didn't) and have some professional-grade de-skunking products on hand.
First of all, tomato juice just doesn’t work. That was the first thing I tried (I happened to have 4 huge cans of tomato paste on hand. A grocery store 'buy one get one' free deal came in handier than I thought it would). I diluted the paste enough to make a sort of mask and basically caked the rather defeated Alley with it. I waited about 30 minutes then rinsed the solution off. I succeeded in creating a beast that looked like she stepped off the set of a Stephen King movie and reeked of skunky tomatoes. Not the result I was aiming for.
So, I consulted the Google overlords and found a much better recipe that didn’t involve ingredients for an Italian dinner or horror movie. You will need:
- 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide
- 1/4 cup of baking soda
- 1 teaspoon of liquid dishwashing soap
In a large mixing bowl, mix everything together. Put on some rubber gloves (such an important step!!) and thoroughly saturate your pup with the solution. No need to get them wet first. Just douse their coat and rub it in. Leave it on for about 20 minutes – warning, this will bleach dark coats – then rinse thoroughly. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat. This can take some time, so settle in.
The trick is to get the most oil out of your pup's fur as quickly as possible. The hydrogen peroxide will break down the chemicals. The baking soda absorbs the odor, and the dish soap helps capture the offending oils and wash them away. Long-haired dogs may suffer longer than their wire-haired cousins. Simply waiting for the annual shedding season can work wonders. I also read other remedies involving diluted vinegar, which can be very drying, so I opted for the recipe above. I was able to get Alley comfortably less skunky smelling, so we could both get some sleep. The next morning, I hightailed it to my nearest pet store to buy some professional stuff.
I did some more Googling and found the highest recommended de-skunking stuff was Nature’s Miracle Skunk Odor Remover. Some other suggestions included Thornell Skunk-Off, Espree Extreme Odor Eliminator, and De-Skunk by Synergy Labs. But I started with Nature’s Miracle, so that is what I can vouch for. If anyone has tried the other remedies, I would love to hear how they worked for you.
This solution is super watery; it didn't suds up like shampoo, so I basically just poured about 1/4 of the bottle onto Alley's fur and rubbed it in (don't forget the gloves). I let it sit for about 20 minutes and rinsed it off. I followed with an oatmeal dog shampoo. This didn’t have the dramatic effect I was hoping for, so back to Google I go. I read some facts on the Nature's Miracle website that it sometimes works better to pour the contents directly onto the dog's DRY fur and not rinse. And guess what, that worked beautifully. Within two days, Alley smelled much less skunky. Finally, success.
I also bought some hydrating grooming wipes and soaked them in the solution. This way, I could thoroughly saturate Alley's face without getting it into her eyes, nose, or mouth. Pupper was well on her way to becoming a member of the family again. But, what about my house? The dog may be smelling like a daisy, but my floors, doors, and carpet still held a reminder of that fateful night.
De-Skunk the House
Unfortunately, I had to trash the boxer shorts and t-shirt I was wearing when Alley first skunked. She barreled right into me on her mad dash back into the house, and my nightwear got a healthy dose of fresh skunk oil. I wasn't about to toss those into my washer and risk the rest of my laundry absorbing this lovely aroma. Some say that adding baking soda to your detergent will rid your attire of the smell. So I figured that buying new shorts and shirts was far less troublesome. But I couldn’t easily throw my back door and tile floor into the dumpster, so I had to find an alternative remedy.
Tile doesn’t care if it gets dry, so I reverted back to the vinegar recipe. Dilute some white vinegar, scrub onto the tile, and steam mop it up. Viola…fresh-smelling floors. Wood floors require a bit more delicacy. Diluted vinegar will still remove the odor, but follow up with Murphy’s Oil Soap to help the wood regain its luster.
As for my painted steel door, I depended on the Nature’s Miracle solution. A vigorous rubbing with a thoroughly soaked rag and letting it air dry definitely helped diminish the odor. It required a few repeats, but it did the trick.
As previously mentioned, fabrics are a bit more complicated (RIP boxers and t-shirt). Suppose your skunked dog sought comfort in your bedspread or couch cushions. In that case, you might need to resort to contacting a professional cleaner. Skunk oils are serious business; they can linger for months or even years in the fibers of your furniture, no matter how quickly you leaped into action. I ended up trashing Alley’s dog collar because the odor penetrated the material so deeply there was just no saving it. Lucky for her, she got a really suave new one.
In short, if you and your pup find yourself on the receiving end of a disgruntled skunk, quick action and a stocked supply of the remedies mentioned above can help keep everyone comfortable and fragrant. So do some research and have a plan in place if you also find yourself in this situation at 2am on a Monday morning. Good luck.
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