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Ever been skunked? The #1 remedy!

October 27, 2008 - Amy Jo Hanna-Eckenrode

Ahhh, the sweet smells of autumn. Crisp, fallen leaves, wood-burning stoves, hot cider, apple dumplings and pumpkin pie. A scent-lovers delight.  All it takes is one curious dog, one scared skunk and it’s all over. Olfactory overload.

Of all people to tell me their dog recently lost a battle with a skunk, I was so surprised to learn it was this co-worker’s Golden, a dog I consider most laid-back, regal and imposing. I never thought I’d hear about Tucker being ‘skunkified’.

It happens to even the most regal I suppose and obviously more frequently than I realized. Therefore, since Murphy and his laws follows me closely let’s get right to the SOLUTION:

In a bucket, mix:

1 qt. 3% hydrogen peroxide (fresh bottle)
¼ cup baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
1-2 teaspoons liquid dish soap

The mixture will bubble. Thoroughly wet the victim with mixture. DO NOT get this mixture in your dog’s eyes. Otherwise apply liberally and wash the dog with the mixture as if it were shampoo while it is bubbling. Rinse the dog and repeat. Be careful not to contaminate the rinse water.

The soap breaks down the oil in which the odor is suspended, and the hydrogen peroxide and baking soda neutralize the scent. Do not premix the solution or store this potion in a bottle (the bubbling would cause it to explode).

This is the one and only mixture you will ever need. I promise. No, tomato juice doesn’t work. It only masks the odor temporarily and will stain your pet a lovely shade of pink. Forget what you’ve heard about feminine products. While they do contain hydrogen peroxide they don’t contain nearly enough to do the job properly. Pity that dog. Or human.

The magical solution (above) which you will want to memorize if you own a dog was discovered by chemist Paul Krebaum and it actually chemically neutralizes skunk odor. Popular Science even backed it in one of their earlier issues. It’s “that one mixture” everyone knows exists but can never recall.

(left: this family actually has a pet skunk co-habitating with their family and 18-year-old cat, both eating from teh same bowl in this photo....)

I learned some pretty neat things about skunks while trying to validate this magical mixture. While too late for Tucker this go-around, his mom is already wisely preparing for the next encounter.

Some things to keep in mind about the little-known and ever-feared Pepe’ Le Pew:

Skunks are actually pretty shy, even timid animals. They don’t like confrontation and they are actually rather lazy. They tend to look for the easy way (perhaps they’re comparable to a teenager).  They won’t go to great lengths to obtain food or find shelter. While about 70% of a skunk’s diet consists of insects they are also great scavengers, ridding roadways and byways of dead animal carcasses.

They are extremely beneficial to farmers, gardeners, and landowners because they feed on large numbers of agricultural and garden pests including field mice and rats, an occasional mole, insects such as white grubs, cutworms, potato beetle grubs, and other species that damage lawns, crops, or hay.

 Unlike other wild creatures that can cause destruction to property trying to gain entry or create a den, skunks will look for the easy way. If there is a readily accessible entrance to your home or garage (like a dog/cat door), skunks will use it. Normally however they borrow a cone-shaped hole 3”-4” into the ground or utilize patches of upturned earth.

Leaving food or garbage outside is an open invitation for skunks. Cat food is a delight and one people often don’t think about.

There are actually stories of skunks finding a cozy corner IN people’s home! “Having adapted well to neighborhoods, it's not uncommon to find skunks and domestic cats dining peacefully together. There have been cases of skunks entering homes through pet doors, dining with the family cat and finding a quiet closet or empty bed to spend the night. As long as the skunk does not feel threatened, it won't spray.” 

Lazy, quiet, laid-back, non-confrontational.  So what makes them spray? Fear.
If a skunk is approached and unable to flee watch for these signs: 
it will usually fluff its fur, shake its tail, stamp the ground with its front feet, growl, stand on its hind legs, turn its head and spit to scare the potential attacker. If those techniques do not work: RUN!!! It will then lift up its tail and spray.
The sulphur-based musk is released from two anal glands. Each contain about 2 teaspoons and the skunk can control up to 5-6 sprays per attack. Think how many sprays of perfume you can get out of 2 teaspoons! They can spray up to 20 feet with both barrels if they want and direct the spray or mist at a specific target.

Skunks are nocturnal and live and roam within a small 1-3 mile radius their whole lives. A very small percentage of skunks are found to carry the rabies virus and no skunk can transmit the rabies virus through it’s spray, however foul.

While we cringe at the mention of these little creatures, the occasional problems caused by the presence of skunks are generally outweighed by their beneficial habits including the types and amounts of harmful insects and rodents they eat.

Just keep a fresh supply of the aforementioned ingredients on hand….

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