Let's be honest: sometimes dog ownership stinks. In fact, it can stink quite literally if your rabbit dog is exposed to the spray of a skunk. The odor of a skunk is enough to ruin anyone's day, especially if you are forced to get up close and personal with it in the form of a dog doused in "eau du polecat."
Skunks are typically active at dusk and dawn, but that does not mean your rabbit dog has in unlikely to encounter them. Mothers with kits, for example, do emerge during the day in search of food as it is during the nighttime hours that she must be closest to her den. Though it is widely rumored that skunks seen during the day must be rabid, it is far more likely that such an animal is merely a hungry mother instead. Skunks are also generally solitary animals, with the exception to this habit being during mating or periods of intense cold, during which time they may gather together for warmth.
The spray of a skunk is its natural defense, although it is used as a last resort when it is unable to ward off attackers through displays of aggression such as hissing, stomping feet, or elevating tails.
Skunk spray is carried in a pair anal scent glands located near the anus to the tune of about 15cc which can take more than a week to create, hence the skunk's natural desire to use it sparingly. When agitated, the skunk releases mercaptans which is contains chemicals known as thiols including (E)-2 butene-1-thiol and 3-methyl-1-butanethiol. Skunks are able to spray this potent fluid with accuracy at a distance of up to 10 feet and once it makes contact, it can cause skin irritation as well as temporary blindness, not to mention engaging the human gag reflex.
The problem with skunks and dogs is that skunks look like cats and dogs like to chase cats. Even if your rabbit dog does not stumble across one and give chase, it is still entirely possible that dog may encounter one by happenstance in the field and ultimately wind up getting sprayed. Because of such scenarios, it is important that all rabbit dog owners know how to remove skunk scent from their dogs. Here's how:
1. Commercial skunk scent removal products such as Nature's Miracle Skunk Odor Remover are available for sale and good to have on hand. This particular product can be used on bedding, carpet, pet carries, and the most importantly the dogs themselves.
2. The Humane Society of the United States offers a recipe that includes 1 quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup baking soda, and 1 teaspoon liquid dishwashing soap. Mix these items together when they are needed (the mixture cannot be stored as the container will eventually bloat and burst) and thoroughly wash and rinse affected dog(s). Follow up with a regular dog shampoo to remove residue.
3. One of the methods of de-skunking that has been around the longest is tomato juice. Simply douse dog in generous amounts to cut through the oily skunk spray residue, then rinse. A follow up wash with a pleasant smelling pet shampoo is advised. Though this was once the go-to way to remove skunk scent, it is said to not be as good as other methods now available but when you have a skunked dog, it all comes down to what you have on hand to deal with the problem.
Remember that when de-skunking your dog, you should avoid getting cleaning and bathing solutions in their eyes. To treat eyes, flush with cool water. During the bathing process, you may wish to protect yourself as well by wearing rubber gloves to prevent skunk spray from irritating your own skin and eyes.
Have you ever had to deal with a skunked beagle? What method did you use to clean him or her up? Let us know in the comments!