Fact checked

How Can I Remove Skunk Odor from a Dog?

Dog Care
11 minutes read
If your dog was sprayed by a skunk, the smell can go everywhere your dog goes and cling to different surfaces. Luckily, there are remedies to remove it safely and easily.
Expert reviewed by:  
Written by:
Susana Bradford
Published on:  
September 7, 2022
Updated on:  
September 7, 2022

Oh no, it’s happened! Your dog scared a skunk and it retaliated. Don’t worry - it doesn’t mean you have to throw away your beloved dog because of their new scent. If a skunk sprays your dog, washing your pet as soon as possible is essential to remove the spray. Skunk spray will distress your dog, and the smell will quickly transfer to your furniture and carpet. Simple soap and water or standard dog shampoo won't neutralize skunk odor. Instead, rinse or wipe as much spray off the dog as you can, then follow up with a commercial skunk odor shampoo or a blend of baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and dish soap, followed by a standard pet shampoo. 

While this is something that you can probably do on your own, if you have asthma or are very sensitive to skunk musk, you may need to use the services of a professional dog groomer.

Your Pet Might Qualify to Be an Emotional Support Animal! Get Your ESA Letter Today!

What is Skunk Spray?

A skunk's spray — a type of musk produced by its anal glands — is its primary defense against attackers. It can repel bears and even cause temporary blindness, though there is no risk of permanent damage. Spray victims may also experience nausea and have trouble breathing if the musk is inhaled. 

Despite its foul smell, the effects on humans and domestic pets are generally temporary. If your dog's eyes appear irritated or you catch him frequently rubbing his face, take him to the vet for treatment.

What is Skunk Odor Made Of?

The reason why skunk spray has persisted with skunks through evolution is that it's so effective. But, unfortunately, it is pungent and causes a lot of distress to your dog. 

The spray comes from anal glands near the skunk's anus; however, it differs from fecal matter and waste. The spray is made of a combination of chemicals known as sulfates and thiols. These are the same chemicals found in rotten eggs, meaning while they are not lethal to humans or animals, they can have long-lasting, uncomfortable side effects.

The good news is that once the substance is sprayed onto a threat, it takes over a week to be replenished by the skunk's body. If your dog was sprayed outside, and the skunk returns the next night, the chance of being resprayed is low.

Your Pet Might Qualify to Be an Emotional Support Animal! Get Your ESA Letter Today!

What Should You Do Immediately After A Skunk sprays your dog?

The first thing you should do upon your dog getting sprayed by a skunk is to keep them outside and check their eyes, especially if they were sprayed head-on. If there are signs of redness and watering, rinse your dog's eyes with cool, clean water before washing its body. If it gets in your dog's eyes for too long, skunk spray may cause severe damage.

After you've assessed the damage to your dog's eyes, prepare the tools you will need to wash its body and rid it of the skunk smell.

Your first instinct is to rush your dog into the house for a bath. You may want to avoid that. Instead, keep the dog outside or take them to a place that is easy to clean, and then clean them.

Anxiety

Suppose your dog shows signs of anxiety and discomfort upon being sprayed by a skunk due to the smell or the excitement of seeing another animal they believed was a friend, not a foe. In that case, they may need a natural remedy to calm them down.

Our favorite product for anxiety is:

Canna-Pet CBD Capsules 

The CBD capsules help relieve anxiety in dogs using CBD oil. You choose the product based on your dog's size (under or over 20 pounds), and it comes in the option of 30 capsules (enough for 15 days) or 60 capsules (enough for 30 days).

What to Use to Get Rid of Skunk Odor

As mentioned, soap and water alone will not eliminate this powerfully pungent odor. So here is what you should use instead:

Commercial Treatments

Pet stores usually sell special shampoos for dogs or cats that have been "skunked." These products tend to be pretty effective, often using a blend of enzymes to neutralize and remove the skunk odor. So, follow the instructions carefully, do not get the shampoo in your dog's eyes or mouth, and do not let your dog lick it off his fur. 

Many stores also sell skunk-odor cleaners and sprays for deodorizing carpets and furniture, which are not always suitable for use on an animal, so make sure you're using one specifically made for pets. If you know that your pet has very sensitive skin, you may want to ask your vet for a product recommendation.

Our favorite products to help de-skunk your pup and get them smelling good again are:

  1. Our Top Pick - Hyponic De-Skunk Shampoo‍
  2. Best Value - Skouts Honor Shampoo

Homemade Remedies

Many experts suggest that one of the best treatments is to use a recipe developed by chemist Paul Krebaum. It combines 1 quart (950 mL) of fresh hydrogen peroxide, 0.25 cup (60 mL) of baking soda, and 1 or 2 teaspoons (5 or 10 mL) of liquid dish soap or laundry detergent. 

Mix these ingredients in an open container; however, do not attempt to store the leftover ingredients for later use or mix the ingredients now for use in the future. 

With the elements combined, hydrogen peroxide and baking soda can cause an explosive reaction, resulting in the substance being all over the surface where you stored it.

Emergency Cases: Feminine Hygiene Products

If you have nothing else to use and feel your dog is getting anxious and irritated, try Massengill. This feminine hygiene product that comes in powder form has proven to be effective in removing skunk odor, but it may or may not cause irritation to your pet. 

Consult with your veterinary doctor before using any products intended for use on humans on your dog.

What Not To Use: Tomato Juice

Contrary to popular belief, tomato juice is not a particularly effective deodorizing treatment. While tomato juice can cause olfactory fatigue by overwhelming your nose with its scent, it is not a permanent treatment and will soon wear off. Tomato juice offers only temporary relief, which may be beneficial until you find a permanent solution, but it is not the best option.

Your Pet Might Qualify to Be an Emotional Support Animal! Get Your ESA Letter Today!

homemade treatments for skunk odor

A Step-By-Step Guide to Rid Your Dog of Skunk Odor

Washing your dog after it has just gotten sprayed by a skunk needs special attention to detail. If you don't hurry, your dog will get more irritated by the minute, and you can get the skunk odor on other surfaces. 

Check items for directions and safety measures before beginning your dog's treatment. If you are unsure or hesitant, get an appointment with a dog groomer specializing in skunk spray deodorization and cleaning as soon as possible.

Follow these eight detailed steps to make your work easier:

1. Check Your Dog's Eyes for Irritation

We spoke about how important it is to see if any skunk spray has landed in your dog's eyes. Promptly rinse their eyes with cool water or a dog-safe eye wash solution if you notice redness or signs of irritation.

The faster you act, the less time the skunk oil has to set into your dog's eyes. The more the spray stays there, the higher the chance of significant damage.

2. Set Up Your De-Skunking Station 

Set up the place where you will clean your dog outside the house. Using a plastic children's pool may make bathing your dog more manageable, or simply tying your dog to one spot could make bathing easier for you and your pet.

Be sure to have all necessary objects, such as towels, water, treats for good behavior, a toy your dog can play with to help relieve anxiety during washing, and your homemade solution or commercial treatment. 

3. Decide on a Detergent to Use

Using a commercial skunk odor remover or skunk shampoo is as simple as following the instructions on the packaging. In addition, the following items will make a safe DIY home remedy:

  • A quart of a 3 percent hydrogen peroxide solution
  • One-quarter cup of baking soda
  • One teaspoon of mild dishwashing soap  

It is essential to avoid any hydrogen peroxide solution that is higher than 3%, as it might burn your dog's skin.

Combine the liquid soap, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide solution in a bucket. Because it may explode if left in a closed container, make this homemade skunk odor remover and use it shortly after. Once you are done, dispose of any solution that remains.

4. Wash Your Dog From Snout to Tail 

Wearing rubber gloves, gently wash your dog with the deodorizing solution. Then, gently apply the cleaning solution to their coat with a washcloth and lather. Be extra careful when washing your dog to prevent getting the soap in their eyes.

5. Soak Your Dog in the Cleaning Solution for 5 Minutes

Remember that hydrogen peroxide can bleach your dog's fur, so owners of dogs with dark coats may want to think about letting the solution sit for a shorter period. The problem is that less soaking time means some skunk odor might persist on the dog.

6. Rinse All the Foam From Your Dog

Once you have scrubbed your dog enough, you need to make sure that you rinse off the foam. Most of it will have remnants of the skunk spray and hence, odor. The skunk-odor removal shampoos are just as harsh as other detergents, so a thorough rinse is in order.

7. Repeat Steps 6-8, But With Regular Shampoo

Wash your dog once again with their regular shampoo. Leave it on for as long as you feel appropriate, then rinse thoroughly with warm water, ensuring you get all the solution off your dog.

8. Confirm That the Smell is Gone

If you want to ensure the cleaning is effective, give your dog a quick sniff. You may need to take your dog to a professional groomer if the skunk smell is still present. However, it should not be as strong as it was. You can also use standard laundry detergent and a half-cup of baking soda to wash any clothing with a skunk odor while cleaning.

 

Your Pet Might Qualify to Be an Emotional Support Animal! Get Your ESA Letter Today!

Application Tips To Remember

After mixing the deodorizing solution, put on rubber gloves and lather the solution over your dog's body. When treating the head and face, use a sponge or cloth dipped in the solution and be careful not to get it in the dog's eyes; treat the dog's head last to prevent him from shaking off the key. 

Let the mixture sit on the dog's fur for five minutes, then rinse it. You may need to repeat the treatment several times if the odor remains, and then wash your dog with standard dog shampoo. Finally, dry the dog with a towel or let him air dry, as heat from a blow dryer can bake residual skunk musk into the dog's fur and skin, resulting in a lingering smell.

How to Prevent Your Dog From Getting Attacked by Skunks

Possibly the best way to prevent your dog from getting sprayed is to discourage skunks from visiting your yard. They are primarily nocturnal, so be sure to remove pet food, birdseed, fallen fruit, and other things they can eat from your yard before nightfall. Skunk spray can cause diseases in some dogs. If you notice a skunk getting onto your property or in the garden your dog frequents, there are things you can do to repel it:

  • Leave a light on in the yard at night
  • Always accompany your dog when they go outside at night
  • Use skunk-deterrents such as ammonia-soaked rags and mothballs
  • Remove food sources by clearing the yard of any forgotten dog snacks and trash

The great horned owl is a predator of skunks, so some experts advise adding plastic great horned owls to your garden décor as a deterrent.

Skunks are typically peaceful creatures and usually do not spray without provocation. Their supply of spray is limited to about five individual sprays, and it takes more than a week to replenish, so they would rather scare a predator than waste their musk. As a result, they usually hiss, tap their feet, and bunch up their tails to scare away other animals. 

Unfortunately, dogs don't always understand these behaviors as warnings and may still approach, triggering the spray.

Final Thoughts

Having a pet sprayed by a skunk can be a nasty business for you and your pet. Luckily, there are many different solutions to aid in ridding your pet of the smell, which means it will not get the skunk odor on any furniture or carpets.

While skunk spray can be difficult to get rid of, there is always the option of contacting a local groomer to help. Groomers are trained to handle anything, including skunk smells, and can offer tips to prevent it from happening again.

Your Pet Might Qualify to Be an Emotional Support Animal! Get Your ESA Letter Today!

Meet the author:
Susana Bradford

Susana is an avid animal lover and has been around animals her entire life, and has volunteered at several different animal shelters in Southern California. She has a loving family at home that consists of her husband, son, two dogs, and one cat. She enjoys trying new Italian recipes, playing piano, making pottery, and outdoor hiking with her family and dogs in her spare time.