Dogs in Alaska and Hawaii don't come across many skunks, but a chance encounter is entirely possible throughout the rest of the United States, especially in warmer weather. Skunks are among the most common mammals throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The good news for nosey dogs is that skunks tend to roam around mostly at night. However, an especially curious dog can find a skunk at any time of day.
Skunks typically stick to their own business. While dogs may only want to play with a skunk, the skunk will likely perceive this as a threat. A skunk will turn away from an approaching dog and then spray a pungent liquid from glands near its tail. Such an attack is a good defense against predators, but sometimes a friendly dog gets sprayed, too. The offensive spray is called mercaptan; and the terrible odor comes from sulphur, a key ingredient. Here's how to get started helping a sprayed dog:
- Keep a sprayed dog outside if possible to keep the odor out of your house
- Try to avoid allowing your clothes to come in contact with affected areas on your dog
- A skunk's spray is irritating — check your dog's eyes and ears for inflammation or signs of irritation — use cool, clean water to immediate rinse as necessary
- Call your veterinarian to determine whether professional care is necessary and to be sure your dog's rabies vaccination is current
- Ask your veterinarian about over-the-counter solutions for removing the smell from your dog's fur. Also ask about home remedies; the most effective includes baking soda and hydrogen peroxide, but can fade your dog's coat color.
If your dog still appears uncomfortable after cleaning, a trip to your veterinarian's office may be needed.