Thursday, June 24, 2010

Underground Skunk Spray and Its Aftermath

If your dog is hit by skunk spray underground you may be in very serious trouble! Get your dog out of the ground as fast as possible. If the dog is not breathing when you get it out of the ground, do mouth-to-snout CPR as explained here.

Even if your dog recovers, he or she may still end up having issues. The reason for this is that skunk spray explodes red blood cells, and can cause serious persistent anemia in your dog.

Skunk toxic shock seems, in part, to be genetic, with certain lines more susceptible to this problem than others, perhaps due to overally weaker kidney or liver function. If your dog has been skunked several times underground and lived to tell the tale (all my dogs) count yourself lucky!

After your dog has been sprayed underground, check your dog's gums regularly for at least a two or three hours. If the dog's gums become very pale (almost white), rush your dog to a vet. A pale pink gum is normal, but white is not.

Most dogs that are skunked underground get out of the ground on their own or with help, and most dogs recover from an underground skunking provided they get out quickly. Time is of the essence, however, and a dog can lapse into a comma after only a few minutes if it is unable to exit a tight earth.

If your dog has pale gums or seems to be in shock, rush it to a vet and make sure your dog is seen immediately. Explain that the problem is MORE than stink: skunk-related shock and anemia can kill a dog.

The best course of therapy for a dog suffering from skunk toxic shick is to fully hydrate the dog (an IV will be needed) to speed the flushing of toxins, as well as to dose the dog with Acetycistein (sold as Mucomyst, Fluimucil, Mucolator, or Tixair).

Acetycistein seems to help the dog cough mucous out of the lungs, and it also strengthens blood cells and the vascular system in general, while working to maintain renal function -- a big issue with skunk toxic shock syndrome.

Since acetylcystein is cheap, easily available, and a well-tolerated drug, starting a dog on this drug is always a good idea if skunk toxic shock seems to be setting in.

If your dogs gets out from underground and skunk toxic shock does not seem to be an issue (this is the situation most of the time), your next issue is the stench. What to do about it?

The short story here is that nothing will completely get rid of the smell of skunk spray except time. And yes, I have tried it all.

"Nature's Miracle Skunk Odor Remover" is a commercial product that works well for a few days at a time. I have tried other commercial skunk-odor removers (such as Skunk Off), and I do not think they work quite as well as Nature's Miracle.

You will need a quart of Nature's Miracle Skunk Odor Remover to dose a 12-pound terrier, but buy two quarts (about $10 a bottle) and keep a spare quart in the wheel well of your car or truck for emergenices. The main ingredient in this stuff appears to be alcohol, but the important ingredients are various enzymes that break down the stink.

What about masengill douche, tomato juice, and vinegar? I have tried them all -- forget it.

What about home-made skunk-odor reduction recipies?

The good news is that they work and they will save you a few dollars over time, as you are going to have to wash your dog every four or five days for a month as the skunk stink leaches out.

Here's the recipie for home-made skunk stink remover:

  • 1 Quart of 3% Hydrogen Peroxide

  • 1/4 cup of Baking Soda

  • 1 teaspoon of Liquid Soap

    Mix it all together in a pan, and wash the dog in in while the mixture is bubbling... let is sit for a few minutes, and then rinse off with tap water.

    Do not get the mixture in the dog's eyes!!

    The quantities described here are for a small Jack Russell. Scale up as necessary.

    Be sure to use FRESH Hydrogen Peroxide... H2O2 will eventually turn into water.

Why does this hydrogen-peroxide, baking soda, and squirt-soap recipie work, and why will your dog have to be rewashed in four or five days all over again?

The short story is that skunk spray contains several kinds of thiols.

The oxygen in the Hydrogen Peroxide releases the Thiols (the odor part) as it foams up, and the detergent removes the oily part that holds the odor in the animal's fur. The baking soda provides a little texture against the fur (thiols are sticky) and also helps deodorize the dog a bit.

The reason that the skunk spray keeps coming back is that the thioacetates absorbed in the skin and fur of the dog, continue to break down over time, turning into stinky thiols. This process is speeded up a bit if your dog gets wet again, but NO, you cannot speed it up too much as it is partially time-released.

If your dog is hit straight-on with skunk spray, either underground or above ground, your dog may get some small blistering around the muzzle and may get some caustic burning of the cornea as well. This occurs because one of the ingredients of skunk spray is hydrochloric acid, created when different skunks two glands mix chemicals together as they exit the skunk's rear end.

It is a myth that skunk spray can cause permanent blindness. When gotten into the eyes the spray often causes temporary blindness, and burns like crazy, but there are no documented cases of skunk spray causing permanent blindness in a dog.

If you dog does end up with ulcerations of the cornea, crate the dog for several days and load it up on antibiotics (cephalexin is fine). The only thing to fear is infection. The important thing is to let the eye rest and heal.

Feed and water your dog well and keep it warm and rested for at least a week after a skunk encounter.

Road flares placed in a skunk den are said to kill the animal, but if your dog has just been sprayed, and stink is pouring out of the hole, you may just want to get the hell out of there and take care of your dog. First thing's first!


Seahorse said...

That whole nipple-aiming thing is just nasty. I was telling my farrier, a big hunter guy himself, all about it on Friday, and he didn't know skunks had those and could DO that. Those bastards (skunks, not farriers!) might inherit the stinky earth!

Seahorse, grossed-out!

trina said...

Hey Patrick!

I just thought I’d let you know that this article has served its purpose in at least one instance. My jack and I thank you! He got skunked last night, not deep underground, but with his head in the hole. His shock symptoms included vomiting, seizing back legs, and a blue tongue. After lots of water and a trip to the vet -- equipped with your article which I had printed out to use as a reference because, as you predicted, the vet had never heard of skunk toxic shock -- he is on subcutaneous fluids with lactated ringers solution, and we’re doing an every 6 hour dose of acetylcysteine, for a total of 6 doses.

I had to go to a vet other than my regular one because she is closed this weekend, and fortunately this new-to-me vet was really great about researching this issue with me and including your information in that effort. She learned something in the process and will now be better able to help the next terrier with skunk toxic shock, and my little guy is on the mend.

By the way, a wipe down with Tecnu before a regular shampoo bath works amazing well for skunk odor. It’s just important not to get it on the dog’s mucous membranes.

Thank you, Patrick, for your very thorough and informative blog. This isn’t the first time it has helped us!

- trina lindsey