Whole Dog Journal's Blog July 8, 2013

Dog Got Skunked? DON’T Use Water (At Least, Not at First)

Posted at 01:58PM - Comments: (11)

The chemistry behind skunk spray stink, and the simple way to get rid of it.

[Updated March 30, 2016]

One of my friends posted on Facebook the other day, “What works best for skunk spray? Pepper got skunked right before we were leaving for work!” (She gets to bring her dog to work – usually!)

I immediately responded: “Don’t wash her!” And my friend responded just as quickly, “Too late! Why?”

I guess a blog is a good place to be repetitive. We’ve covered this in WDJ and maybe on the blog before, but I guess one can’t say it enough:

If your dog gets hit with skunk spray, DO NOT wash him with water (or tomato juice or anything else). Get thee to a bottle of hydrogen peroxide! And box of baking soda!

Chemist Paul Krebaum gets the credit for applying his chemistry knowledge to the age-old need for a substance that can neutralize the smell of skunk spray. He researched the putrid oil (which skunks can shoot out of special glands under their tails as a potent defense mechanism) and determined that the chemical responsible for the distinctive odor was in a class called thiols. The human nose is extremely sensitive to these organosulfur compounds, and can detect them at 10 parts per billion. But if you subject the substance to just the right compound, you can inactivate the chemicals responsible for the odor, as fast as a chemical reaction can occur.

Krebaum came up with a formula – a quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide and a ľ cup of baking soda – that would alter the thiols in skunk spray and render them odorless. He recommends using fresh peroxide (not an old bottle that’s been open for years). Stir together in a bucket or large bowl – NOT a bottle, as the mixture will bubble and produce gas bubbles (which could cause a plastic bottle to explode). A teaspoon or two of dishwashing liquid (such as Dawn) is added to make it easier to distribute the mix evenly through the dog’s hair.

He recommends you wet the dog thoroughly with the mixture, down to the skin. Be careful not to get any in your dog’s eyes (or cuts) however; it stings! I’ve used a sponge before to thoroughly wet my dog’s face without getting it in his eyes. (You can also put a sterile lubricant eye ointment – such as Artificial Tears -- in your dog’s eyes first, which will help protect them from being stung by any of the mixture.)

After the dog is thoroughly wet, you shouldn’t be able to smell the skunk spray any more. If you can still smell it, you haven’t gotten every bit of the skunk oil wet with the mixture. Once the odor is neutralized, rinse the mixture off. I usually follow this rinse with a regular shampoo bath; even though you can’t smell the skunk spray any more, it’s still oily and a shampoo will help get it off the dog’s fur.

If you FIRST washed the dog with water (or tomato juice, or some other home remedy), sorry, this approach won’t be as effective as it could be. Water also affects the thiols, making the stinky substance resistant to being chemically neutralized.

I’m sure I’m butchering the language of chemistry in trying to explain this. For a technically correct chemistry lesson on how this mixture works, see Paul Krebaum’s website: http://home.earthlink.net/~skunkremedy/home/sk00003.htm

And for the basic recipe and directions from Mr. Krebaum, see his FAQ page: http://home.earthlink.net/~skunkremedy/home/sk00001.htm

Comments (11)

What if it's too late? This happeed to my sisters dog last night and she unknowingly rinsed him off first. Now realizes that's a big problem. Are there any steps she can take at all to at least minimize the smell and the length it lasts? Thanks!

Posted by: Charl33t | September 22, 2016 9:42 AM    Report this comment

Skip the Febreeze, both my dogs itched for weeks from Febreeze

Posted by: Unknown | July 14, 2013 12:27 PM    Report this comment

Tide works just as well without all the hassle of buying stuff and mixing. I have used it three times on my dogs. Works great, even at midnight in the winter with cold hose water. Good old TIDE!!!!

Posted by: tarzanbf | July 10, 2013 10:22 PM    Report this comment

Used this on my Siberian several times last summer (you'd think she'd learn). While she is mostly white, she does have some black on her head and that did turn reddish after treatment. I don't think once would have done it, but 4 times in a month definitely affected her color. It's all back to normal now, though. BTW, if by "pet odors" you mean urine smell, it definitely works for this as well, but test the surface you're going to treat because it will definitely bleach some fabrics, carpets, etc.

Posted by: Helen K. | July 9, 2013 9:32 PM    Report this comment

You might also keep white vinegar handy.

Posted by: ljfoor | July 9, 2013 5:24 PM    Report this comment

I have used Nature's Miracle skunk odor removal. And it really works. You have to leave it on the dog for about 5 minutes. Then rinse.
I find it easier than measuring all that stuff and mixing it.

Posted by: Cathy E | July 9, 2013 2:22 PM    Report this comment

I have 2 very dark chocolate labs and have used this skunk treatment multiple times (including a couple times during the same summer season). I have seen no evidence of discoloration of their fur.

Posted by: Ann J | July 9, 2013 2:18 PM    Report this comment

I have two black dogs and have read up on the peroxide/baking soda treatment. It's my understanding that it will bleach out the fur. It would seem to be an easy choice to get rid of the smell as soon as possible, but the bleached fur would last much longer than the smell dealt with by other means. I have stocked up with several bottles of organic skunk smell neutralizer that doesn't bleach. Anyone know for sure about the peroxide?

Posted by: Alexpal | July 9, 2013 1:29 PM    Report this comment

If I use this mixture on my black border collie, will his fur change color?

Posted by: Lois A | July 9, 2013 1:03 PM    Report this comment

Thanks Nancy or whoever edits the WDJ blog, Mr. Krebaum's hydrogen peroxide & baking soda treatment should work on any or most smelly organic sulfur compounds besides skunk spray. Check that the Febreeze ingredients are save to use directly on pet skin with your veterinarian, it probably just masks the odor with a chemical fragrance.

Posted by: ricklmafd@earthlink.net | July 9, 2013 11:05 AM    Report this comment

Thx, does this work for " pet odors" aka skip the Febreeze ($$$)?

Posted by: Furney | July 9, 2013 10:55 AM    Report this comment

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