Getting Rid of Skunk Odor on Your Dog: What to Do if Your Dog Is Sprayed by a Skunk

dog at groomers

It's every dog owner's worst nightmare: you're out having a wonderful time when suddenly, a skunk sprays your dog. Even though it's unpleasant to deal with the smell of the spray on your dog, know that your dog is safe, though they may be anxious. Dealing with a dog that has been sprayed by a skunk can be stressful if you aren't prepared, so keep these simple steps handy in case you ever need to use them.

Take a deep breath (away from your stinky dog, of course) and get ready to fix the problem when a skunk sprays your dog. The unpleasant odor of a skunk spray can linger for up to three weeks if not treated, so taking these precautions right away will make life much easier for you and your pet.

  1. The dog should not be bathed immediately. Your first inclination may be to give your dog a bath, but doing so without proper deskunking tools will only serve to further embed the oils from the skunk's spray in your dog's fur and make removal more of a challenge.
  2. It's best to confine your dog outdoors. Your dog's unpleasant encounter with a skunk may have scared him, but you should try to keep him outside while you get the bath ready. This will prevent the odor from spreading throughout your house.
  3. Pick up some gear for desk-diving Deskunking shampoos are specifically formulated to remove skunk odor from dogs. Products of this kind are designed to neutralize skunk oils, rather than merely covering up their odor with another.
    • If you don't have any deskunk shampoo on hand, there is a temporary solution you can use until you can get to the store. As a do-it-yourself alternative, you can try mixing 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide with 1/3 cup baking soda and 1 teaspoon of liquid dishwashing soap.  
  4. Get your bath stuff together. You'll need to equip yourself with skunk shampoo, as well as gloves, a washcloth, towels, a cup or gentle hose nozzel, and the rest of your dog's regular bathing gear.
  5. Figure out where you sprayed your dog. Make sure you know exactly where on your dog you applied the spray so you can begin treating immediately. This will most often occur on or near their face or posterior.
  6. Carefully apply the medication to your dog. Don't get any on your dog's eyes, but do soak the area of their fur where you sprayed them. Instead of spraying your dog's face with deskunking product, soak a cloth and rub it into his muzzle and cheeks if he was sprayed there. Apply the product to your dog's skin and massage it in thoroughly. Let it sit for five minutes. Protect your hands from the skunk spray's oils, which would make the odor very difficult to get rid of without a shower, by wearing gloves.
  7. Rub, hold, and wash Check the packaging to make sure, but usually you should let the deskunking shampoo sit for about five minutes. If your dog starts to get antsy while waiting for its treat, try distracting it by teaching it some new cues or tricks. After the specified amount of time, massage the shampoo into the animal's coat to help remove the oil, and then rinse it out.
  8. Use a standard dog shampoo on your pet. You should still give your dog a "normal bath" with your regular dog shampoo after using a deskunking product.
  9. Completely drying your dog is a must. After every bath, make sure your dog is thoroughly dried off. To prevent any lingering oil from contaminating your home, try drying your dog outside.
  10. You Should Say That Again Repeat the process if your pet's odor persists into the next day. While giving your dog an excessively long bath might make him feel better, you should also clean other items in your home that he may have come into contact with and that may be the source of the odor, such as pet bedding and upholstered items.
backyard dog bathing outside

Once your dog has been sprayed by a skunk, keep him or her outside in a secure area until you've had a chance to treat the odor with the proper products. Some of that skunk odor may find its way into your home, but there are ways to deal with it. As a do-it-yourself method, boiling vinegar in a pan has been proven to be a safe and effective way to get rid of lingering skunk odors. It's enough to simply leave open containers of vinegar in the smelly rooms for a couple of days; the vinegar will absorb the odors over time. Just make sure to keep the containers out of the reach of pets and children.   Using diluted liquid bleach (one cup of bleach in a gallon of water works well) can help remove odors from hard, outdoor surfaces like your deck or porch, but it should be tested in a small area first in case it discolors the material. Have some patience if the odor doesn't go away immediately; it may take multiple applications of either method.  

Carpets, clothes, bedding, kennels, and other hard surfaces can all benefit from using a pet skunk shampoo that also serves as a deskunking product. Make sure to check the product's label when you buy it to see if it can be used for anything else.

When possible, it's best to prevent a skunk attack rather than trying to deal with one after the fact. Although skunks can't be completely avoided, there are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood that they'll choose your yard as a new home. For instance:

  • Remove any food bowls from the outside and make sure all trash cans are closed. Skunks often forage in garbage cans, so keep these areas clean.
  • Gather fruit that has fallen from trees. Skunks will frequent your yard in search of the fallen fruit from your trees and bushes because of their fondness for fruit.
  • When night falls, it's not safe to leave your dog outside unattended. Skunks are crepuscular, so you're most likely to see one at twilight, dawn, nighttime, or even on a cloudy day. While it may be inconvenient to go out with your dog into the chilly backyard for one last potty break before bed, the alternative is much worse: your dog coming back after encountering a skunk.
  • Purge any hiding places Skunks are constantly searching for new places to rest or raise their young, and they are surprisingly agile and able to squeeze through tight spaces. Get rid of any fire hazards, like woodpiles or debris, and seal off your home's vents.

Anyone or anything can get sprayed by a skunk, including people and animals, but being ready with a plan of action and effective solutions can help you deal with the situation rapidly. Keep your dog on a leash at all times when you're out and about, and make sure your yard is properly fenced and gated to prevent your dog from escaping or a skunk from entering.

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