After my sitter's dog got skunked I decided to read up on it.. what it is, what it can do to you and your pet, and the science behind it (I know.. I am a complete nerd)... LOL !
So here is the information I now know about skunks and the new "health risk" recently revealed.
The classic rotten-egg smell is caused by a sulfur compound that is released when an “enemy” comes a little too close for comfort. The skunk’s main line of defense is the two anal glands on either side of its anus. When threatened, the skunk will first hiss and stomp. If the threat continues, the skunk will release its anal glands. Amazingly, skunks can spray up to 15 feet, and with great accuracy.
There are six species of skunks in the northern United States, all of which are easily identified by their black bodies and white stripes — and the nasty smell. Ironically, they have an excellent sense of smell (and hearing), but they cannot see well. They are most active at twilight and nighttime.
What Happens When a Dog Is Skunked?
Usually, a skunked dog immediately starts drooling, squinting, face-rubbing and rolling. The spray can cause conjunctivitis, temporary blindness and vomiting.
Rare Reports of Damage to Red Blood Cells
Shedding some new light on the old skunk story, a recent article I just read explains that in rare cases, a skunked dog can get severe anemia and even die from it!
This is a special form of anemia (a low red blood cell count) called Heinz-body anemia. The skunk spray damages the hemoglobin in the red blood cells, the same way acetaminophen (Tylenol), onions and garlic do. This condition only (and rarely) happens in dogs, but interestingly it seems to mostly occur in Japanese dog breeds (e.g., Shiba Inu, Akita and Tosa).
The treatment is called symptomatic and supportive, which means that veterinarians treat the symptoms as they appear.The article I read mentions two dogs with anemia who were reported to the ASPCA toxicology department: a 2-year-old Pharaoh hound and a 5-year-old boxer. The boxer ended up dying from severe anemia. So again, this condition does not happen only in Japanese breeds. Cats are susceptible to this reaction in theory, but no case has been reported.
If the spray got into a pet’s eyes, clean the eyes with plain water and treat vomiting as needed. Don’t neglect the possible other reactions: your pet should be monitored over 72 hours with blood work (a complete blood count, or CBC, to check the red blood cells and a “chemistry”), especially for heavy exposures or multiple sprays. If signs of anemia occur, then your pet will need IV fluids and possibly a blood transfusion.
How to Get Rid of Skunk Smell
One common question that pet owners ask their family vet is, “How can I get rid of skunk smell?” Well, here is a recipe for you, called the Krebaum skunk odor removal formula.*
- 1 quart 3 percent hydrogen peroxide
- ¼ cup baking soda
- 1-2 tsp liquid dishwashing detergent
- Large dogs: add 1 quart lukewarm water
What to do:
- Mix the above ingredients fresh.
- Apply the formula to your pet, working deeply into the fur. Bathe your pet outdoors!
- Let it set for 5 minutes, then rinse with lots of water. Repeat as necessary.
- Note: Your pet’s fur — as well as clothing, towels and carpeting — may be bleached by the mixture.
- Warning: Do not store the mixture in a closed container! Oxygen needs to escape as it is released by the peroxide.
Personally, I hope you never get "skunked", but if you do, please keep an eye on your pet and if there are any issues, get him or her to your vet immediately.