Dealing With Skunk Odor in Pets

Thanks to Augie Bering, Bering’s Hardware, for this article

Skunks have one of the most successful and well-known defense strategies in the natural world. In two tablespoon-sized sacs they hold an extremely potent chemical weapon capable of stopping bears in their tracks or ruining your whole week. The smell of a skunk’s attack, no matter what it’s on – a pet, an article of clothing, is awful and lingers on for days.

People who have experienced this can tell you finding a way to treat the odor is an extremely urgent concern.

The Skunk

Ranging throughout the New World and Indonesia, skunks are extremely successful survivors who are truly omnivorous and need fear only the Great Horned Owl as a predator. Skunks do very well in suburban settings and other areas where human activity can supplement their diet. Consequently, dealing with the aftermath of a skunk spraying is becoming more and more common.

The Stench

The compound that the skunk used as a natural defense is made of thiols, which are organic sulfur compounds. These are responsible for many smells in nature, not all of which are unpleasant (for example, grapefruit). The ingredient added by utilities to natural gas to make it smell unpleasant is tert-Butylthiol, a similar organic compound. The skunk’s spray is not water-soluble and can’t be removed easily with soap and water. Without treatment, the odor will remain for days before dissipating.

Skunks can only spray a few times before depleting their supply and will often try to avoid confrontation by stamping, hissing and displaying their dramatic black and white tail. Adults and most animals will take this opportunity to get farther than 20 feet away from the agitated animal before falling into its cross-hairs.

Home Remedies and Treatments

Most of us have heard that a tomato juice bath is the antidote to the smell of a skunk’s spray odor on a pet (or even on you!). This is an urban legend. Tomato juice does block the smell somewhat, but it is working inside your nose, not on the odor-causing compounds.

* The best treatment available without a trip to the store is a quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide (this is the lower of the two commonly available concentrations) mixed with a quarter cup baking soda and a squirt of liquid dish soap. Mix these ingredients and immediately apply to the affected person or animal and agitate while it foams. This mixture, as discovered by chemist Paul Krebaum ( in the early 90s, is quite effective at deodorizing skunk spray.

There are also specialized products  available on the market that can effectively deodorize skunk spray in outdoor pets. These generally use enzymes to dissolve the odor-causing compounds and receive positive reviews. If you live in an area that skunks frequent and you have an exuberant pet, preemptively purchasing a bottle may be a good idea.

Skunks are a fact of life for a growing percentage of Americans. Other than learning avoidance, there is little to be done except educating ourselves how to deal with the problem after a skunk encounter and keeping pets and children out of harm’s way beforehand.

About the Author

August Bering V, “Augie” to his friends, is President of Bering’s Hardware in Houston, TX. Bering’s is well-known for a broad range of carefully selected home goods such as outdoor living products to pet products, and red carpet service that has delighted customers for generations since 1940. From your bridal registry, decorating your first home, to your first baby registry, Bering’s has special gifts for special occasions and the right tools for the right job. Augie enjoys spending time with his family and friends, grilling and cooking, playing hard outside, travelling, design, art, live music, and spending as much time as he can with his family.

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