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How to Get Skunk Smell off Your Dog

dog at groomers

It’s one of every dog parent’s worst fear — you’re enjoying a great evening when, bam — your dog is sprayed by a skunk. While stinky and unpleasant to deal with, keep in mind that your dog is not in any danger after they’ve been sprayed, but they could be feeling a little unsettled. It can be stressful to deal with a dog that has been sprayed by a skunk when you aren’t prepared, though, so consider being ready at a moment’s notice to handle the situation with these easy steps.

10 steps to get rid of skunk smell on your dog

When a skunk sprays your dog, take a deep breath (away from your stinky dog, of course) and get ready to fix the issue. When left untreated, skunk odor can last up to three weeks, so you’ll want to follow these steps immediately to make everything more comfortable for you and your pet.

  1. Avoid giving your dog a bath right away. It will likely be your natural instinct to bathe your dog immediately, but bathing right away without the proper deskunking tools will actually set the oils contained within a skunk’s spray into your dog’s coat, making removal more difficult.
  2. Keep your pup outside. Although your dog may have been spooked by their unpleasant run-in with a skunk, try to contain them outdoors while you prep their bath time. This will keep the scent from entering your home and transferring to other surfaces.
  3. Grab a deskunking product. Dog deskunking shampoos are your best bet for getting rid of that skunk smell. These products are specially formulated to break down skunk oils, as opposed to just masking or covering them up with other smells.
    • If you don’t have a deskunk shampoo available, you can try an at-home remedy until you have time to pick one up at the store. A mixture of 1 quart 3% hydrogen peroxide, 1/3 cup baking soda and 1 teaspoon of liquid dishwashing soap can be tried as a DIY swap. 
  4. Have bathtime supplies ready. In addition to your skunk shampoo, get gloves for you, a washcloth, towels, a cup or gentle hose nozzel and your dog's normal bath supplies.
  5. Identify where your dog was sprayed. You'll want to treat the area sprayed first, so know where your dog was sprayed. Typically, this will be in teh face or near their backside.
  6. Apply the product to your dog carefully. Taking care to avoid your dog’s eyes, saturate their coat in the area where they were sprayed. If your dog was sprayed in the face, saturate a cloth with the deskunking product and then rub that into their muzzle or cheeks, rather than directly spraying their face. Massage the product all the way into your dog’s skin and let it sit for five minutes. Wear gloves to avoid getting the skunk smell on your own hands, since the oils in the spray will make it difficult to remove from your skin.
  7. Massage, wait and rinse. Most products recommend leaving letting the deskunking shampoo sit for about five minutes, but check the product you purchased to make sure. If your dog becomes impatient during this time, try to distract them  by practicing a few cues and tricks while treating them. After the allotted time, massage the shampoo into their coat thoroughly to help remove all of the oil and rinse out the product.
  8. Bathe your dog with regular dog shampoo. After you have used a deskunking product on your dog, you will still need to administer a “normal bath” using your standard dog shampoo.
  9. Dry your dog thoroughly. Be sure to completely dry your dog off after each bath. Try keeping your dog outside as they dry to keep any oils that may remain out of your home.
  10. Repeat if needed. If your pet still smells the next day, you may need to repeat the process. However, overbathing your dog could lead to discomfort, so ensure that you have properly cleaned other items in your home that your dog could have come into contact with and may be causing the scent (for example, pet bedding and upholstered items).
backyard dog bathing outside

How to get rid of skunk smell in your house

You’ll want to make sure that your dog stays outside in a safe area after being sprayed by a skunk until you’ve treated them with the appropriate products. If, however, some of that skunk smell does make it into your house, there are some things you can do to help. Boiling vinegar in a pan is one DIY way that has been found safe and effective against removing skunk smell inside. Even just setting open containers of vinegar in the rooms that smell (out of the way of pets and kids that can tip them over or drink from them, of course) can also help, because the vinegar will absorb the odors over a couple of days.
Liquid bleach can help remove the smell from hard, outside surfaces like your deck and porch, but be sure to dilute the bleach in water first (one cup of bleach in a gallon of water works well), and try a small test area since it can cause discoloration. If the smell doesn’t disappear completely right away, have a little patience — it may take several attempts with either of these methods before it’s gone completely.
Some pet skunk shampoos also work as a deskunking product for home items and can be used on carpets, clothing, bedding, kennels and other hard surfaces. When you’re purchasing a product, read the label to see what other uses it may work for.

How to keep skunks out of your yard

One of the easiest ways to handle a skunk attack is to avoid having it happen in the first place. While it’s not possible to avoid them completely, there are some things you can do to make your yard less appealing for skunks. For example:

  • Close all trash and recycling cans and remove outside food bowls. Skunks love to dig through trash for food, so remove any temptations.
  • Pick up fallen fruit from trees. Skunks love fruit, so they’ll enjoy coming into your yard to eat the fruit that’s fallen from your trees or bushes.
  • Avoid letting your dog outdoors unsupervised from dusk to dawn. Skunks are crepuscular, which means they choose to be out at dusk, dawn, moonlit nights and cloudy days. While accompanying your dog into the cold backyard for their last potty break before bed may seem like a hassle, it’s much better than having them come back after meeting a skunk!
  • Clear out potential hiding spots. Skunks are always on the lookout for places to sleep or nest with their young, and they can get into some surprisingly small areas. Clear out any piles of wood or debris in your yard, and close up any house vents.

Being sprayed by a skunk can happen to anyone and any pet but being prepared with the proper solutions and plan of attack can help you alleviate the problem quickly. It’s also important to make sure you keep your dog leashed when out and about, and keep your yard properly fenced and gated to avoid having your dog get out or a skunk get in.