How do I….de-skunk a pet?

by | General Pet Care |

Last summer, I had a first-hand experience of how to de-skunk your pet. We live near a moderately-wooded area, and while I had never seen a skunk around, there are ample opportunities for a cozy skunk abode (or two).

We had let our dog Jersey out in the backyard for her morning pee as usual, and ten minutes later heard her whining to come inside. We didn’t think anything of it… until her rancid smell filled the room and we realized she had found a new friend in the neighbourhood.

As my husband shoo’ed her out of the house (and said very pointedly how he hoped I would be able to get the smell out of “my dog”!), I realized I had no idea how to get her clean again.

I already knew that a simple bath with her dog shampoo would not do the trick, and I had my doubts about bathing her with cans of tomato juice. Was tomato juice supposed to be to the skunk’s smell that kryptonite was to Super Man? I didn’t think so.

I did some investigating on the World Wide Web, and decided to take my chances on a home-made concoction that seemed to be recommended by quite a few websites, made with fairly benign ingredients. (I did not want to try something that was going to make her itchy or uncomfortable afterwards. Always use your common sense when following instructions on the internet.) The unpleasant spray that a skunk uses as a defense mechanism is oil-based, which is why traditional pet shampoos and deodorizers do not work. The best skunk removal formulas need to be peroxide-based, which is the primary chemical which neutralizes the smelly oil of the skunk.

I was careful to check Jersey over before I bathed her to make sure she didn’t have any bite marks or scratches that required veterinary attention. Always be sure to check your pet, and regardless of where you live your pet should be up-to-date in vaccinations to prevent diseases like rabies or tetanus.

The most common (and effective) household formulation for de-skunking animals was created by chemist Paul Krebaum in 1993. In a bucket, mix together the following ingredients:

  • 4 cups of hydrogen peroxide (3% strength)
  • 1/4 cup of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of liquid hand soap

Bathe your pet with this solution and warm water. The hydrogen peroxide strips the skunk’s oil from your pet’s coat, and the baking sode neutralizes the smell.

I was a bit concerned that the hydrogen perioxide would bleach her dark/sable coat, or leave her skin itchy so I was very prompt in lathering Jersey up and then rinsing the solution off. I washed her again (I missed some spots the first time around, as she was wriggling around) and then rinsed. While I don’t think she appreciated the random bathing, this formula was certainly effective and the smell was gone.

Some words of caution:

  • Peroxide is a strong chemical agent, so do not lather your dog up and do not let it sit on your dog’s coat before washing it off
  • Keep the formula away from your pet’s eyes, mouth, ears and nose
  • Do not let your pet swallow any of it (it will almost immediately cause vomiting)
  • Do not try to bottle the formula “for later” as peroxide is a reactive agent and can cause a minor explosion

Lastly, if you pour the leftover mix onto your lawn or plants, your grass will bleach out in the sun and leave a giant pale spot admist the lush greenery of the rest of your lawn.

(Lesson learned!)