How to De-Skunk a Dog

How to De-Skunk a Dog

Skunk spray is one of those nasty things you secretly believe can only happen to other people’s dogs – until your own dog gets doused by a defensive skunk. Then, all you can think about is how to get rid of that foul stink!

Nowadays, my dogs don’t go out after dusk in summertime until I’ve checked the yard with a flashlight, looking for a tell-tale flash of white striped fur.

Why?

Because I’ve had the “fun” and humiliation of bathing a stinky skunk-sprayed (and deeply unhappy) Shiba Inu outdoors in the dark, trying every home remedy I’d ever heard of to try to get rid of the skunk odor.  It took hours, and I actually had to throw out the clothes I was wearing when I gave the dog his de-skunking bath – the stink was that potent.

Even when I thought I’d got rid of the smell and finally let the poor dog go back in the house, it wasn’t a total success. For the next three months, whenever it rained, a faint lingering skunk smell rose from Shiba’s thick fur.

Home Remedies for Skunk Odor

Unhappy dog after skunk spray and bathYes, I learned a lot from that dog-meets-skunk experience – and from helping out a bunch of dog-owning friends who have found themselves in the same stinky situation.

One thing I learned is that the world is stuffed full of myths and “old wives tales” touting home remedies for skunk odor that, to be frank, simply don’t work.  (Do people even test out these so-called remedies before they post them online?)

But there is one simple home remedy that actually does neutralize the nasty smell, and I’ll give you the recipe here, along with my top suggestion for a skunk odor remover you can keep on hand for those emergencies when you don’t have time or patience to mix up a DIY solution.

First, let’s get rid of some of the de-skunking advice that just plain stinks!

Skunk Smell Treatments That Just Don’t Cut It

  • Tomato juice
  • Beer
  • Vinegar
  • Feminine Hygiene Wash

tomato-juice_unskunkingTomato Juice

Forget it.  Maybe years ago, when tomato juice was pressed by  hand from fresh garden tomatoes, maybe it might have had some kind of active enzyme that attacked the oils of skunk spray and neutralized the smell – maybe! – but today’s big cans of processed commerical tomato juice? Nope, it doesn’t get rid of the skunky smell. Save the tomato juice for a pitcher of Bloody Caesars at your next cocktail party.

Beer

Save the beer for its intended purpose,too.  If you try to use beer to remove the smell of a skunk frorm your dog’s fur, you just end up with a dog who smells like he met a skunk in a tavern. Not exactly an improvement.

Vinegar

I love vinegar as an all-purpose cleaning fluid and odor remover or odor neutralizer, but it just doesn’t work on skunk spray.  Not only that, the sharp smell of vinegar up his nose will not make your poor sprayed dog any happier about getting a de-skunking bath, and there’s a very big risk of getting the acidic liquid in his eyes.

Feminine Hygiene Wash

Eww.  Don’t you wonder who came up with this idea first?  You see it repeated as advice – sometimes with a particular brand name attached –  but I’ve never met anyone in real life who swears by a commercial douche product as a skunk odor remover.  When I asked my vet, he fell about laughing at the very idea – and then pointed out that a feminine hygiene wash product would have a lot of the same drawbacks as vinegar, from the dog’s point of view.

As for any shampoo or deodorizer product that’s just made to cover up a smell, you’d be wasting your time and money.

Skunk smell is not only really powerful, it’s carried in special oils in the skunk spray that work their way right into your dog’s coat and cling to each individual hair.

That’s why it’s so hard to get the odor of skunk out of your dog’s fur – or anything else, for that matter.

Recipe for a Dog De-Skunk Bath That Really Works

When my stinky little Shiba dog has his run-in with the skunk, I went through all the home remedies I could find in an attempt to de-skunk him.  As mentioned, most were a total bust.  The most successful of the recipes for a skunk odor remover?

  • Homemade Skunk Smell Remover

Baking Soda, Liquid Soap, and Hydrogen Peroxide

Recipe:

  • 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide (available at any local drugstore)
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon liquid soap or a mild dishwashing liquid
Mix this up in a bucket, get on your rubber gloves, and get sponging right away – fast action is vital here!  The mixture will begin to lose its power almost right away, while the skunk spray just settles in.   Keep it away from your dog’s eyes and from any scratches or wounds, as it’s quite irritating (that is the other reason for you to wear gloves, as well as trying to keep the skunk smell from getting on your own skin).  Oh, and don’t forget to wash your dog’s collar at the same time, or be prepared to throw it away.

One more tip – do the de-skunking bath outdoors!   Absolutely do not allow your dog back into your house until you’ve taken care of the skunk smell.  Seriously, it’s a lot easier to wrestle a skunky dog in full view of your laughing neighbors than it is to take him inside and end up having to fumigate all your bedding, drapes, clothing and soft upholstery. That smells gets into everything!

For a dog without the triple-thick coat of a Shiba Inu – say, for a Labrador or Shepherd or Spaniel – the baking soda and hydrogen peroxide odor removal recipe works perfectly, and even if my Shiba had been less thoroughly sprayed I think it would have done the trick. This is the recipe my vet recommends, and also my friend Laura who, as a professional groomer, has gone down the de-skunking road more often than most people.

But with super-furry Shiba,  I did find there was still just a faint lingering odor on days of high humidity…

The Best Skunk Smell Remover of All

Nature's Miracle Skunk Odor Remover The only thing that finally got rid of the last of the stink out of the very inner layers of his thick fur was a treatment with a commercial product called Nature’s Miracle Skunk Odor Remover.

I picked it up on the recommendation of a friend whose hunting dogs are always scaring up skunks and getting the worst of the deal, and can’t say enough about how effective it was in taking care of the stink.

The brand was familiar to me from some of their other products – Nature’s Miracle has an awesome enzyme-based cleaner that’s the best thing ever for getting puppy pee out of a carpet – but the de-skunk product was new to me.

If I’d known about Nature’s Miracle Skunk Odor Remover at the time the skunk sprayed my poor little dog, I’d have used it on him right after the shampoo to take out the worst of the skunk oils.  And we would both have been a lot more happy!

Bottom line?  

In a skunk  spray emergency, rush to the one true effective home remedy with your hydrogen peroxide, baking soda  and liquid soap (because even if you don’t have all the ingredients on hand, it’s easy to pick them up even after hours). And if your pup makes a habit of tangling with wildlife, lay in a bottle of Nature’s Miracle Skunk Odor Remover so you’ll have it on hand when that next really-hope-it-never-happens skunk encounter takes place.

Photo credits: Skunk by Out at Bobs (modified by author), Unskunking by Brian Boucheron, and De-skunked by OakleyOriginals, all on on Flickr; Nature’s Miracle Skunk Odor Remover label courtesy of Amazon.com.

Author

likes to make and do and think and explore and share what is discovered. She is also incurably curious. If you are, too, you can find her posting as Flycatcher...r...r on Twitter and Google Plus.

4 comments

  • i found natures miracle not to be so effective. After 2 treatments it still stank.
    The only thing I found that really helped was a product called knock out. It’s enzyme based nutralizer as well.

    Reply
    • Do you mean Nok-Out, Shannon? In our experience, Nok-Out has seemed to be the most effective for removing cat urine smells but Nature’s Miracle (the formula specifically made for skunk odor, not the all-purpose cleaner) still gets our vote for de-skunking the dogs. Heheh, maybe if one of the cats got sprayed by a skunk, we might have to use both products, do you suppose? 🙂

      Reply
  • I use the same solution of peroxide/baking soda/dish soap, but put it in a spray bottle. After spraying down their fur, I wipe them down with a wet sponge. I haven’t tried the commercial solution, but it sounds like something I need to keep around the house!

    Reply
  • I’m sure you have helped a lot of people with this article. That would have to be one of the worst smells ever to get rid of!

    Reply

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