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The (Not So Wonderful) Scent Of Spring

By Kathy Santo | Updated:Mar 18 2019

One morning, as I waited for my teapot to boil, I checked my phone and saw a frantic text from a student whose dog surprised a skunk during his early pre-breakfast romp in the backyard.  Poor Sully learned the hard way that sometimes curiosity gets you into trouble.

Every year, after even a few days of warm, pre-spring weather, forest creatures (who may have been absent during the cold winter), start to emerge.  This is “Skunk Time” (like “Hammer Time” but a lot less fun), and if you’ve ever had a dog who’s had a close encounter with a skunk, you already know how hard it is to get rid of the smell!  

Forget tomato juice (because it doesn’t actually remove the smell, it can leave your dog smelling like a tomato, and, if your dog shakes off while you’re applying it, your bathroom will look like a scene from a horror movie!)  Instead, use this, a tried and true recipe to de-skunk your dog:

What You'll Need:

  1. A fresh, unopened bottle of 3% Hydrogen Peroxide (at least 2 quarts – more for larger dogs)
  2. Baking soda (a fresh box, not one that’s been in the freezer for a month!)
  3. Dishwashing detergent (Dawn works best, which is why it’s used to clean animals contaminated after an ocean oil spill).
  4. Mineral Oil
  5. Eyedropper (the type used to give medicine to a baby)
  6. Saline solution (pure saline, not the kind with cleaning agents used for contacts)
  7. Empty soda bottle
  8. Latex Gloves
  9. Patience, patience, and more patience

What To Do:

  1. Limit the contamination: Skunk spray is an oil containing mercaptan, a very foul-smelling substance that is added to dangerous, odorless gases, so we notice them.  Wetting your dog or allowing him in the house after he’s been sprayed increases the risk of spreading the nightmare. Have someone stay with your dog outside, or move his crate to the yard (or in the garage) while you prepare what you’ll need.  As for you, this is the point I would “glove up” and get into some old clothes that you won’t mind parting with (forever) later…
  2. Protect the eyes, nose, and mouth: Flush the eyes with saline for several seconds and then use an eyedropper to put the mineral oil directly into the eye.  This will not only have a soothing effect, it will also protect the eyes from the skunk-removing mixture. For the nose and mouth, wipe the, with a paper towel or cotton ball soaked in saline.
  3. Absorb the oil: Using paper towels press them against the dog’s fur to dog remove as much oil as possible. Be careful not to use just one piece and rub it all over, as it will spread the oil. This step will also help you discover what areas have the most damage so you can be sure to use extra solution in that area. Notice that I said “paper” and not “bath” towels.  That’s because if you use a bath towel, you can pretty much kiss goodbye ever using it on anything you value. There’s a slim chance of recovery if you wash it (and any other clothing/fabric that made contact with your skunked dog) with vinegar and baking soda.
  4. Mix the magic potion in the empty bottle
    • 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide (new, unopened bottle)
    • ¼  cup of baking soda
    • 1-2 teaspoons of liquid soap (most people use Dawn)

This bottle must stay open throughout the process because if you put the cap on it, there’s a strong probability that an explosion will occur. That will lead to a far wilder situation than the one you’re currently dealing with. So please, keep the lid off.

  1. Apply: Most dogs get sprayed in the face, so be sure to saturate each area completely. Cotton balls work well, especially around the eyes. Allow the solution to soak in for 5 minutes, then rinse well and follow with a regular shampoo. Don’t forget to soak your dog’s collar in the magic solution as well.  

When you’re done, pour whatever’s left of the solution down the drain.

Now that you’ve completed the hardest part, you can focus on making your house smell better. Vanilla candles and bowls of white vinegar in the house will help dissipate the odor.  You can also soak cotton balls with vanilla extract and place them around the house (obviously where your dog can’t reach them unless you want “vet visit” added to your list of ‘Things I Have To Do That I Never Planned On Doing” today!)

If all of that sounds dandy, but way more than you’d like to handle, do what Sully’s owner did and if you’re local to the northern NJ area, call our grooming shop – Kathy Santo’s Pet*A*Groom. They have lots of experience making even the “skunkiest” dog smell as fresh as a daisy!

Kathy Santo has spent her entire career as a dog trainer and handler, training dogs and winning over 500 obedience, agility and Canine Good Citizenship titles. Working with her own dogs, she has achieved every competitive obedience title the American Kennel Club (AKC) has offered and earned the prestigious AKC “Obedience Trial Champion” title (OTCh) multiple times.

In Ramsey, Kathy teaches classes, private lessons, and oversees the training of her student’s dogs using her extensive knowledge, experience and intuition to handle problems from the benign to the serious. Her engaging personality has won her the respect and friendship of her many students, who now consider themselves part of her extended family.