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August 22, 2014
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community living

The scent of spring

By Sue Frisch

It’s been a long, cold, snowy winter, but now spring is in the air, and as the days get longer and the warm air melts the snow, many of the creatures that have remained hidden over the winter are making their presence known. Hungry from their long winter’s nap, skunks and porcupines are now actively searching for easy food sources such as compost piles and trash cans.

A run-in with either of these creatures is no fun for the dog or the person on the other end of the leash. Skunks spray the most horrible smelling substance from their backside and are very accurate with their aim. While over the years there have been a lot of remedies for skunk spray from tomato juice to vinegar or lemon juice, I have found that none of these solutions ever took away all of the odor. More recently, some good commercial preparations have been developed, my favorite being Nature’s Miracle Skunk Odor Remover. However, most people don’t plan ahead for this type of thing, so the following recipe, made from common household ingredients and developed by chemist Paul Krebaum is great in a pinch.

As soon as possible after you realize that your dog has tangled with a skunk, check her over for any bite wounds or scratches and look to see if her eyes are red, irritated and watering. If you see any injuries, contact a veterinarian for their recommendation before proceeding to the bath. Once you determine there are no injuries, then put on some old clothes and a pair of rubber gloves. Mix the following ingredients in a large bowl (do not save this mixture or make it ahead of time, as it could explode if left in a bottle):

• 1 quart, 3% hydrogen peroxide

• 1/4 cup baking soda

• 1 teaspoon liquid soap

Pour or sponge the mixture thoroughly into the areas where your dog has been sprayed. Work the solution through the dog’s coat and onto the skin. Since the peroxide can bleach out the hair color, work quickly. Once you have all of the affected areas treated, rinse your dog with cool water. Next, wash your dog with a mild pet shampoo and rinse again thoroughly. By now, she should be de-skunked and smelling sweet. Let her air dry.

A run-in with a porcupine is very painful. Porcupines have needlelike quills that run along their sides and tail. These quills have backward-pointing barbs that hold them firmly in place once they come in contact with the skin and flesh of another animal. Typically the quills will be embedded, usually in and around the mouth and snout of the dog, and possibly the chest and front paws. Once quilled, the dog will generally try to paw at his face in an attempt to remove the quills. This only results in burying the quills deeper, and/or breaking them off, which makes them harder to remove.

If your dog is lucky, and only has a few easily accessible quills, you may be able to remove them yourself. First restrain your pet, then, using hemostats or pliers grab a quill as close to the skin as possible and steadily pull the quill out, being very careful not to break it off. Be sure to examine your pet’s entire body, feeling for hidden quills. Since they can range in length from one-half inch to four inches, they may not all be readily visible. If your pet has more than a few quills, quills in the mouth, or one that has broken off under the skin, seek veterinary attention immediately. It is absolutely necessary that all quills be removed as soon as possible. Quills left in the dog can cause a nasty infection, and they can also migrate through the body and cause injury to internal organs. Even if you are able to remove the quills yourself, place a call to your veterinarian to see if a course of antibiotic is recommended.

You can help prevent encounters with these pesky critters by keeping close tabs on your dog from dusk till dawn. A leash is a good idea for those just before bed potty walks. Also, keep your trash in a container that these animals cannot get into and forage around. Whistle or talk while you are walking your dog, or place a bell on the dog’s collar. Most of these creatures don’t want an encounter with your dog any more than you want them to.