Veterinarian Gary Ryder says it's one of the most common phone calls he receives at his emergency room practice: What do you do when your pet gets sprayed by a skunk?
Before offering advice, Ryder first wants to dispel the myth that tomato juice cocktail will remove the awful smell. "They don't work very well," Ryder said of the cans of cocktail juice. "And then you end up with a dog that smells like skunks and tomato soup." Instead of tomato juice, Ryder recommends mixing up a batch of the following solution and applying it to your pet as soon as possible:
-- 1 quart hydrogen peroxide
-- 1/4 cup baking soda
-- 1 tablespoon dish soap; he recommends using Dawn
This can be a messy process, so wear clothes that you don't mind staining, and protective gloves are helpful.
If possible, try to let the mixture stay on your pet for about 10 to 15 minutes before rinsing it off. Although your pet is likely to be distressed during the process, the longer it is on, the more it will help break down the components of skunk gland secretions. The dish soap is especially important, as it will break down the skunk's oil-based spray, which is composed mostly of compounds called thiols.
If an animal has been sprayed in the face, it will often rub its eyes against the ground to try to remove the painful irritations. Ryder, who fields pet questions on the Q&A website JustAnswer, recommends rinsing the eyes with a saline solution — either contact solution, artificial tears or eye wash. Make sure to wash your pet's mouth with cool water too.
When to see an expert
"If you notice severe lethargy, pale gums or labored breathing, then get to a vet right away," Ryder said. "While rare, anaphylactic reactions to being skunked is possible. These can potentially be fatal."
Some of Ryder's fellow vets at JustAnswer also offered this advice:
What about commercial products?
Veterinarian Michael Salkin recommends Skunk Off Shampoo and Nature's Miracle Skunk Odor Remover. (If you have skunks in your neighborhood, you might want to stock up now, before the worst happens.)
Any advice for keeping skunks at bay?
Veterinarian Roy Cruzen says "skunks operate in twilight, dusk and dawn, inconveniently when we are most likely to be out walking our dogs," so you might want to consider changing your walking schedule or when you allow your pets outside.
He said you can also discourage skunks from coming around by never leaving out dog or cat food and minimizing the amount of seed spilled from your bird feeders — these are like skunk buffets.