Carroll County certainly has an abundance of wildlife. However, one particular creature may strike fear in the hearts of pet owners: the skunk. These striped mammals are known to carry rabies. Another concern is when they spray their "perfume" on pets, which leaves a long-lasting aroma.
Skunking incidents usually occur late at night when these creatures forage for food under bushes and trees or from pets' food bowls that are left outdoors. Fenced-in yards don't guarantee that pet and skunk encounters won't take place because dogs will bark at the striped critters they observe through fence openings and then receive a reply in the form of an oily spray of the skunk's signature scent!
For many years the application of tomato juice was believed to be the only effective skunk odor remover, however, from first-hand experience it doesn't really work! Over 10 years ago two of my dogs were "skunked," sloshed with tomato juice all over their bodies and then put into their crates for their coats to dry. I felt two pairs of dog eyes staring daggers at me! After their coats dried, the tomato juice residue flaked off around the house, their skin became dry, and their normally silky-textured coats felt coarse. Almost a month later the skunk odor finally dissipated!
Since that time several skunk odor removal products have appeared on the market. Articles discussing effective skunk odor removal have appeared on the internet (which contained basically the same ingredients and procedures). Information from The American Kennel Club's "Ask AKC" website and Dog Health1.com have been summarized below to provide pet owners with procedures and a "recipe" for skunk odor removal:
DO NOT bring your pet into the house to prevent carpeting, curtains and furniture from absorbing skunk odor. Instead put your pet in the basement or laundry room.
Before examining the pet for wounds, put on a pair of rubber gloves because skunks may carry rabies. A rabid skunk's saliva can enter cuts and scratches on bare skin and spread rabies to humans. Clean the pet's wounds immediately with hydrogen peroxide, then contact your vet who may want to examine your pet, treat the wounds, and provide a rabies booster even if the rabies inoculation is current.
Check your pet's eyes for redness because skunk spray is very irritating. Saline eye solutions may be used for rinsing and flushing the eyes but ALWAYS consult the vet first.
Collect the following ingredients and supplies:
- 1 quart of fresh 3% hydrogen peroxide (have extra bottles handy)
- 1/4 cup baking soda
- 1-2 teaspoons of mild dishwashing detergent like Ivory Snow or Dawn
- Mixing spoon
- Large bowl or bucket for mixing the above ingredients
(Warning: Do not mix or store this mixture in a closed container because it will explode.)
- Rubber gloves
- Several towels
- Wash cloth or clean rag
- Water Source for rinsing the pet thoroughly (like a hose attachment
- The odor removing procedure is as follows and can be done outdoors or in a basement sink on a DRY animal:
Put on rubber gloves before handling your pet.
Mix the peroxide and baking soda in the large bowl or bucket, then add the liquid soap and stir thoroughly (it may foam up on the pet's skunked areas after it is applied).
Soak the washcloth in the mixture and apply to the pet's head by rubbing it around the muzzle, ears, neck, head, avoiding the eyes.
Saturate the remainder of the pet's body and coat with the mixture working the foaming mixture well into the coat and leave it on for 10 minutes.
Rinse the pet's face in a backward motion to prevent the soapy water from getting into the pet's eyes.
Lift the pet's chin to allow water to move down the pet's body and not into the mouth region where the mixture could be licked.
Rinse the rest of the pet's body thoroughly with warm water.
If any residual skunk odor remains, repeat the bathing procedure, rinse and dry your pet.
Note: hydrogen peroxide might bleach dark coated dogs.
Hopefully your pet will never experience a skunking episode, but be prepared by keeping the ingredients, equipment, and instructions on hand and also closely monitoring your pet's nighttime walks if skunks inhabit your area. You might want to cut out this article and tape it on your refrigerator!
Iris Katz serves as a member of the board of directors and as an educational facilitator for the Humane Society of Carroll County. Her column appears on the third Sunday of the month.