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What neutralizes skunk on a dog?

Did Your Dog Get Sprayed by a Skunk? Here’s How to Get Rid of the Stinky Smell

Most dog owners know the panic that comes with realizing your dog has been sprayed by a skunk. But what really works to get your dog (and your home!) smelling good again? You might have the perfect DIY skunk deodorizer in your bathroom already.

Vincent Finch-Brand
By Vincent Finch-Brand April 19, 2021
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Woman bathes a cream french bulldog
Credit: Teerawut Bunsom / EyeEm / Getty

If you have a dog, chances are that sooner or later they will have an unfortunate encounter and come home smelling distinctly of skunk. Before you fill your bathtub with all the canned tomatoes in your pantry, step back and take a breath. You’ve got this.

Tomato juice actually does little to help neutralize odors, instead acting as a mask to cover up that familiar skunk-y smell. But there are a few key steps you can take, and a few common household ingredients you can use, to ensure your dog and home are free of that stinky smell before long.

What to Do If Your Dog Got Sprayed by a Skunk

Getting sprayed by a skunk is an unpleasant experience for dogs and owners alike. Most typically, however, no first aid is needed after a dog-skunk encounter. If your dog’s eyes appear red or irritated, flush them with cool water or a dog-safe eye wash product.

Andrew Weissman, VMD, DACVR, co-founder of Radimal, says that, usually, the skunk spray will deter your dog from attacking the skunk, and they will not get into any kind of physical altercation. Remember that a skunk sprays when it feels threatened and is trying to scare that threat—in this case, your dog—away. However, if you are concerned about your dog after an interaction with a skunk, it’s best to consult your veterinarian.

4 Easy Steps to Remove Skunk Smell from Your Dog

Your first instinct when you smell skunk on your dog is probably to get them into a bath immediately. However, it’s worth it to take a step back and make sure you are using the correct products to de-skunk your dog, since washing without the proper tools will only further set the smelly oils into your dog’s fur—and bringing your dog inside may spread the odor throughout your house.

1. Deodorize your dog (with the right stuff).

«It’s an old wives tale that tomato paste gets rid of the smell,» says Weissman, who recommends against using tomato products to mask the smell of skunk. Instead, you want to use something that will actually neutralize and remove the odor. You can purchase over-the-counter cleaners to deodorize your dog if you like. These are convenient and might be handy to have around if your dog is especially prone to interactions with skunks, but they are no more effective than a solution you can make yourself with common household ingredients. In fact, Weissman says the mixture below is «better than anything you can buy at Petsmart.»

DIY skunk deodorizer:

  • 1 quart 3% hydrogen peroxide solution (any stronger could cause irritation)
  • ¼ cup baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon liquid dish soap

Mix these three ingredients together and apply to your dog’s fur, letting the mixture soak in a bit, then rinse thoroughly. Wear rubber gloves to avoid getting the skunk spray on your hands. If your dog has dark fur, be careful not to let the mixture sit for too long, as the hydrogen peroxide could slightly bleach their fur.

This DIY mixture should not be made ahead of time and stored, but is luckily very quick and easy to put together if you have the ingredients on-hand.

2. Wash your dog normally.

Next, give your dog a bath as you normally would, using your regular dog shampoo. Dish soap will also work in a pinch. Towel-dry your dog as thoroughly as you can and allow their fur to air-dry in a warm room so they don’t get chilled.

3. Repeat as necessary.

It may only take one deodorizing session to eliminate the skunk smell from your dog’s fur, or it may take a few washes over time to completely remove it. Continue the two-step washing process as many times as it takes to get your dog smelling sweet again.

4. Deodorize your home and clothes.

As much as you might try to keep the skunk smell out of your home when your dog comes back covered in it, that’s not always possible! If the skunky smell leaked into your home, all is not lost.

Weissman recommends boiling a pot of vinegar to eliminate the odor from your house. At first, he says, the house will smell like vinegar, but once that dissipates, it should smell much better. If you have any skunk smell on your clothes, try tossing ½ cup baking soda in with your regular laundry detergent when you wash them.

How to Prevent Your Dog From Getting Skunked in the Future

The easiest way to handle a skunking is, of course, to avoid those little black-and-white creatures in the first place. While it isn’t possible to completely eliminate the possibility, there are a few steps you can take to make your yard less appealing to skunks and reduce the chances of your dog encountering one.

Closing recycling and trash bins and removing any outside food bowls will provide less temptation for skunks to live around your home. Similarly, if you have fruit trees or bushes, pick up any fallen fruit. And most importantly, always supervise your dog when they’re outside, and avoid going out during peak hours when skunks are most active if you can, such as dawn and dusk.

De-Skunking Your Dog

Realizing your dog has been skunked is one of every pet owner’s worst nightmares. With a scent that can last for weeks not only on the dog but also inside the house and even on humans, every pet parent should know what to do if a pet becomes a little too curious with the striped animal.

Do Not Bring your Dog Indoors

When your dog gets skunked your first instinct may be to bring your pet indoors to get him or her into the tub as soon as possible. Avoid the urge, however, as this will simply cause your dog and your house to smell skunky.

Do Not Wash

The chemical responsible for the characteristic skunk spray is a compound called a thiol, which does not dissolve in water. While your second instinct (after taking your dog inside) may be to grab the hose, avoid this temptation, as spraying your dog with water or another water-based substance (like tomato juice) will simply spread the skunk oil further into your dog’s fur instead of removing the stench.

Neutralize the Odor in the Skunk’s Oil

If you aren’t supposed to bring your dog indoors and you shouldn’t go straight for the hose, what should you do first? The answer is to “deactivate” the skunk smell by neutralizing the odors. Have your dog wait outside while you prepare a simple mixture containing:

  • a quart of hydrogen peroxide
  • ¼ cup baking soda
  • 1 – 2 tsp dishwashing detergent (blue Dawn dish soap)

Pat your dog’s coat dry with a paper towel, to remove any excess oil from the skunk spray. DO NOT rub your dog’s coat, as this will just help the oil seep into their skin more. After the solution has finished bubbling, apply evenly to your dog’s coat until the smell has dissipated. Then, rinse your dog clean.

Give Your Dog a Bath

The next step is to give your dog a normal bath. Although the smell should be gone, an oily residue will remain that can only be removed with shampoo. At this point, wash your dog as you typically would while paying close attention to the areas that feel slimy or oily. For extreme cases, your dog may require a couple washings in order to remove the entire residue.

Home “De-Skunking” Recipes

There are a number of recipes posted online that supposedly work for removing skunk smell, but be aware that hydrogen peroxide and baking soda is the only chemically proven solution that neutralizes the odor. One common DIY remedy is tomato juice. While the acidity in this juice will work to cut through some of the oils, much of the odor will remain (and will also leave your light-colored dog looking pink). Other people swear by vinegar because it masks the smell, but does little to remove it.

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