21 Aug 2014
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How to De-Skunk an Unfortunate Canine

Here's what to do if your dog ever runs into Pepe Le Pew.

How to De-Skunk an Unfortunate Canine

While most of you go into conniptions upon a subdivision coyote sighting, there’s a creature I fear even more than those wild canines and Geneva 4th Ward Alderman Ron Singer put together.

You see, while coyotes have the good sense to flee when pursued, these heinous beasts prefer to take a slightly different approach. And when you consider what those liver sausage and onion sandwiches are already doing to my social life, reeking of something else isn’t likely to help matters any.

Yep! We’re talking about the Warner Brothers cartoon character that was the bane of cats with a faux white stripe everywhere and who mercilessly skewered French folks everywhere—Pepe Le Pew. Or, as we like to call ‘em: skunks!

“Why bring this up now?,” you ask? Because as I was discussing a topic of obvious great import—that I can no longer remember—with Heartland Elementary School Principal Adam Law, he not-so-casually mentioned his poor dog had just succumbed to a malodorous assault.

He and his wife were attempting to enjoy a crisp Geneva fall evening when, despite closed windows, it hit ‘em like a ton of bricks. Adam’s first thought, “That smells like skunk!” was followed by the terrifying realization, “Oh, no! I think Baxter’s in the back yard!”

You see, Baxter is a labradoodle, and if you’ve ever encountered one of those affectionate and energetic puppies, then you already know they’re the only creature on the planet more unassuming and friendly than Richard Simmons.

Adam and I are convinced that, having spotted the scurrilous polecat, possessing the general jolly mien of a labradoodle, Baxter assumed it was another playmate. Sadly, he got sprayed full force in the snout before discovering the error of his way.

Or, as Adam put it, “In addition to absolutely reeking, Baxter had a rather quizzical look on his face when we went out to get him.” I can only imagine.

Of course, they proceeded to give the perplexed canine a bath, but as anyone who’s ever had to endure this tribulation already knows (my sainted Geneva Patch Editor Rick Nagel for example), using simple soap and water is a lot like attacking an elephant with a fly swatter.

So Adam asked me if I’d heard of any cure and, harkening back to the days of folk remedies, I blurted out “tomato juice!”

But just to be on the safe side, I called the fine folks at Meadowview Veterinary Clinic, an animal hospital ensconced along the railroad tracks across the street from Delnor Community Hospital’s south entrance.

And here’s the 411. Should your dog run afoul of a skunk, your best bet is to whip up the appropriate amount of the following solution:

  • 1 quart 3 percent hydrogen peroxide
  • ½ cup baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon dish soap

To add insult to injury, hose down your dog and then slowly pour the chemical concoction over him, rubbing it into his fur as you go. Once fully applied, hose him down again he should be fit for human companionship.

Though the substance certainly helped dilute Baxter’s endearing skunk scent, it would’ve worked even better had Adam applied it immediately after the unfortunate event.

Meadowview Vet Dr. Jill Harder added that, especially if they’re sprayed in the face, a skunked dog can go into a kind of lethargic shock. Don’t worry, it can’t kill them, but you certainly want to get that odor off them ASAP.

Then I asked Dr. Jill about any reasonable skunk countermeasures of which pet owners might avail themselves. And the answer was pretty much the same as it was for coyotes.

Avoid open garbage containers, feeding pets outside, bird feeders, and compost heaps with fruit rinds and/or egg shells. Employing bright outdoor lights (skunks are nocturnal) and commercial skunk repellents can also helpful.

If you’re at your wits end, they do make motion activated sprinkler systems designed to repel all manner of midnight creatures, but my guess is you’d wind up with a wet dog far more often than a fleeing skunk.

When you consider skunks can squeeze through a 4-inch opening, they can dig under any fence, and they’ll eat anything up to and including dog poop, nothing is foolproof. I’ve already explained this to my Australian cattle dog. While I may be willing to insert myself between a coyote and her, when it comes to skunks, she’s on her own.

Trapping? It’s completely pointless because, as it is with coyotes, another skunk will quickly take its place. Skunks are everywhere. My mother tried hiring a trapper only to watch the next one regularly stroll across her Evanston back yard.

Dr. Jill added that, while her crack staff is willing to perform a canine odor exorcism, deskunking a dog is one of their least favorite endeavors. As she put it, “We’ll do it, but the entire building and staff smells like skunk for days.”

So, if you happen to run into Principal Law and he smells a little bit funny, rest assured, he still showers on a daily basis. It’s just a side effect of being a sympathetic pet owner!

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