Skunks and Fireworks Are NOT a Dog’s Best Friends

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My senior dog Otto has never liked fireworks, but he’s never been a total wreck around the Independence Day holiday, either. He will pant a little bit and pace at the height of fireworks and firecracker activity, but will still eat and allow himself to be comforted.

This year was different. He’s aging, and seems to be getting increasingly neurotic and anxious about a few things. If anyone is doing laundry at my office/house, for example, he acts like most thunder-phobic dogs do in a thunderstorm. I think he can feel the shaking or vibration in the old wood-framed house, and he paces and shakes and pants, and won’t take treats. I used to be able to just stop the laundry and he would calm down. In the past year or so, he’s gotten so increasingly anxious about the possibility that there might be laundry, that I basically just don’t take him there very often anymore. He’s happier at home.

Except for this holiday. There is a casino less than a mile from where we live – as the crow flies, not on our road. And apparently, this year, the management opened up the parking lots to anyone who wanted to set off fireworks and it seems like half the county took them up on it. I got home from my office/house well before dusk and Otto was a nervous wreck.

Where my sister and her husband live, several miles out of town, there is a strict prohibition on fireworks; it’s also a high fire danger area. I didn’t hesitate to take Otto to her house to spend the night. He is happy and comfortable there, and we couldn’t hear a single snap, crackle, or pop.

Back at my house, neither Woody nor Odin minded what sounded like a war going on outside.

The next morning, I went back to my sister’s house to collect Otto. I walked into her living room, and hit a WALL of skunk scent. “I’m so sorry!” my sister said. “Otto went out the dog door at about 4 am and got skunked in the back yard!”

I was the sorry one! Their house REEKED! I guess since they had been smelling it since 4 am, they had gotten accustomed to it. I felt terrible, until my sister asked me, “Hey, would you help me look at Dinah’s butt? She keeps licking it.”

Dinah got fat!

Dinah is one of my former foster dogs. She was an anxious mama who came into my local shelter with one fat pup, and she thought it was her job to protect that pup from anyone who looked in their direction. At my shelter, that’s a death wish; nursing moms don’t get a pass just because they are mothers. If they are judged to be “aggressive,” they aren’t going to make it to the adoption row, so I had taken her and her puppy to my home to foster, about four years ago. The puppy got adopted by an acquaintance and my sister fell for Dinah. She is absolutely not aggressive, but super shy; when my sister and her husband have guests, she spends most of the time hiding under furniture. Most of their guests don’t even know she exists!

From Pam’s description, I was certain Dinah needed, at a minimum, to have her anal glands expressed, and perhaps a trip to the vet if one of the glands was infected or impacted. I pulled Dinah out from one of her hidey holes, and my sister helped me get her dressed in a harness. I said I would take care of Dinah, as my sister had to go to work.

Our first stop was at my house, to leave stinky Otto there. Then we went to Walgreens, to get every quart of hydrogen peroxide they had on the shelf, for de-skunking Otto. Next, we stopped at a local groomer; Dinah’s nails were super long and overdue for a trim. The groomer restrained Dinah enough for me to get a good look at her bottom. Sure enough, she has a sore next to the anus; she needs to go see a vet. I called the local clinic; they had no openings today, but could see her tomorrow morning. OK, I made that appointment. But is it an emergency? Should I take her to the emergency clinic in the next town?

Since I was close to the shelter, I decided to consult my friend, the veterinary technician there. She was busy with something, so I waited in the lobby for a few minutes, saying hello to my friends who are the front desk clerks there. It wasn’t even 10 am and one of them mouthed to me, “I want to go home!”

“Lots of lost dogs?” I asked, and they grimly nodded. But as one of them helped one gentleman at the front desk, when he was asked, “When did you last see your dog?” he answered, “Four days ago.” Yikes. I know I don’t have what it takes to be a receptionist at a shelter – a poker face? nerves of steel? – that’s for sure.

My friend took a peek at Dinah’s nether end and agreed that it could likely wait until tomorrow for an in-depth exam. She suggested we don’t feed her in the morning, in the likely event that she has to be sedated.

My sister just had a whopping vet bill when her other little dog got stomped by a deer in the empty lot next to her house. I feel bad that they have another bill on the way, but when it rains, it pours.

Dinah and I came home to give Otto another skunk bath – actually, his second in two weeks! When he was young, he got skunked twice in one week, and forever after, when we saw skunks, he would back away from them, licking his lips anxiously. I rejoiced and bragged that he was the only dog I knew who had “learned his lesson about skunks.” Well, all bets are off with senior dogs, from fireworks to skunks.

Next year, I think we will all go camping somewhere very remote.

I hope you had a nice holiday.

26 COMMENTS

  1. Hello, as always interesting articles! I am wondering about your “skunk” mix. Besides the hydrogen peroxide, can you give other ingredients and proportions? My GSD Gracie got ‘skunked’ a few weeks ago. I have bathed her several times, but when she gets wet from the rain, etc. she still has a bit of the lingering skunk smell — combined with the rain, makes for a lovely perfume!

    • 1 qt (32oz) 3% hydrogen peroxide (a new bottle – needs to be fresh and potent)
      1/4 cup baking soda
      1-2 teas Dawn dishwashing liquid.

      Mix all and use immediately on dog while the peroxide is still bubbling.

    • This is the recipe I saved:
      • One quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide
      • One quarter cup of baking soda
      • One teaspoon of liquid hand soap (not detergent or dishwashing soap)
      Bathe your dog in this mixture a few times and rinse well with warm water. The peroxide in this solution could definitely hurt your dog’s eyes, so make sure to avoid getting any there, and rinse well with tap water or contact lens saline if you do.
      Safety tip: there’s no way to safely store it. If you put all the ingredients in a bottle and place it on a shelf it will explode, so just make enough for one bath.

    • I see you’ve gotten several replies, but thot I wud add mine cuz i do it a little differently. The ingredients (hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, dish soap) are the same, but I let it sit for a minimum of 5, and up to a max of 10 minutes. This really helps, considering the entire point is to break down the oil in the skunk’s spray. Make sure to rinse well and dry fur thoroughly. Once dry, you can evaluate if a repeat application is warranted.
      SUGGESTION: Moisturize! The concoction works well to de-skunk, but is also quite drying to a dogs skin. I liquify at least 1/4 cup of coconut oil and apply it during the drying process. 🐾🐶🐾

  2. I have used about everything, but this seems the best in my opinion. I mixed Hydrogen peroxide and Tomato Juice then after a bath, did it again. It really seems the best method I have found. Tomato Juice has an acid compound that digs in and kills the MOST HORRIBLE STENCH known to man. It usually takes a two or three day treatment.

  3. Use 1 qt fresh (unopened) hydrogen peroxide with 1/4 cup baking Soda and 1teaspoon dish soap. I wear disposable gloves too. Good luck. The fresh peroxide is very important

  4. Technu removes the skunk spray which is an oily substance. This is the same stuff to remove poison oak oils after exposure. Get the big bottle from CVS or Walwhatever. Rub in thoroughly with a towel. Works better and faster than dawn/peroxide, doesn’t bleach fur and can be kept in car for emergencies of poison oak and skunk attacks!

  5. My senior dog Wilbur had an issue with firework this year for the very first time. I’ve noticed that he is becoming a bit more anxious in general. Sigh….

    • Our Callie, age 5+, had never been bothered by fireworks or storms. But this year was a basket case. Paced the flood, panted, tried to hide, would NOT take treats etc. After putting large cotton balls in her ears, getting 3 Benadryl in her and putting on her cooling coat she settled down some. Bed time she wanted on the bed with us, even though she didn’t stay long then went to her bed for the night. It must come with age. I now have a Thunder shirt for her and sure enough the fireworks was carried over again on Friday. But we were prepared.

  6. I’ve certainly had my fair share of car rides with skunky dogs, but I won’t comment on that.

    Fireworks – I had a pointer that had no fear in early life, but with age came increasing noise and storm phobia. One New Year’s Eve, I came home to a dog in total panic that had ripped up about 12 inches of carpet, dug inch deep claw marks in the door between the bedroom and a junk room we never went in, destroyed the mattress, and shredded the drapes next to the bed. I never left her again when I thought there would be fireworks. We lived in the city where they were banned, but we all know that makes no difference to a lot of people. Might I add she was terrified of being confined in a crate.

    Chelsea also developed extreme storm phobia (driven by barometric pressure changes as well as noise). She crashed through windows to get both in and out – to get anywhere. When she couldn’t get out of one window, she gnawed at the broken glass and cut her mouth. I would rush home as soon as I knew we might have a storm because she would already be drooling and pacing. It’s a miserable life for a dog like that at those times. Since that time, there have been a number of aids and homeopathic treatments created to help relieve this fear and I have used most of them for the pointers I have had since (metal roofs and rain makes a drizzle sound like a hail storm). I’ve had minimal luck with most of those, but have finally found some relief with Sileo for all of my storm phobic dogs. It has limitations, especially if I am at work and a storm begins, but it works quickly when I have used it and takes the edge off. For us, it was a lifesaver. I don’t know how people can leave their dogs outside and expect them to process all that loud noise without fearing for their lives. The other surefire calming became car rides for almost every one of my dogs, even the ones in most panic. Not a great solution, but it worked for the dogs I had.

    On the anal gland issue, I will make one comment on a medical condition that I hope does not affect Dinah. I adopted an elderly GSP (14 years old) that had bleeding from her hind end (I figured UTI) when I got her. She had fissures on either side of her anus that were extremely painful upon closer examination. After 8 months of constant vet attention, antibiotics, and negative prognosis by 3 different vets, it was recommended that we see a surgeon to have her anal glands removed – something that had been previously ruled out as an option by the vets.

    The surgeon quickly looked at her and referred us to a dermatologist (the first of many specialists I have taken my dogs to over the past 10 years). She diagnosed her with perianal fistulas and change her to a more powerful antibiotic, put her on Atopica, and gave her several other drugs. The dog was not eating well no matter what I gave her, so she did not change that (trust me, we were trying everything including raw).

    After 8 months of bleeding, infections, and misery, the fissures began to heal within two weeks. We decreased the Atopica over time, added ketaconozole, and the problem never recurred.

    Carrie had multiple health issues that we addressed for the 1 1/2 years I had her and I finally had to decide her quality of life was not ever going to be what I had hoped it would be, but I am so grateful we were able to resolve that one issue that was diagnosed as blocked anal glands to begin with.

  7. I have noticed also as my dog approaches senior years (he’s 10 now) fireworks are upsetting him more. I think fireworks should be outlawed everywhere except in professional public displays such as in towns and cities.

  8. I have used womens douches with better results than any other things like hydrogen peroxide or even tomatoes. My husband gets funny looks if he checks out with a bunch of them but he just tells them skunk smell on the dog and they laugh.

    I have done research that shows nerve damage is one of the reason our dogs react to the noises they react to. Different things can cause nerve damage (diseases, vaccines, injuries and just getting older and the nerves wearing out). I use several things to help calm my dogs (lavender spray on rags placed throughout the house, composure by vetriscience, some people use cbd oil, rescue remedy).

    • Dinah had an impacted and infected anal gland! Vet expressed the glands and prescribed an antibiotic. Recheck in 10 days 🙂

  9. I had a dog who wasn’t bothered by storms or fireworks when he was younger, but developed that fear as he aged. I didn’t have any way of testing it, but the fear/anxiety seemed to increase proportionate to his loss of hearing. I just noticed that when he couldn’t hear anymore (he was nearly deaf at 15) lightning flashes and the reverberations from thunder/fireworks terrified him. It was like he was confused by it. Fortunately, it never got so bad that I couldn’t comfort him.

  10. Nancy, I totally related to this article. I have a 12 year old b/c mix and she is getting worse as time goes on. I live in TX and so now I deal with random gunfire, she has started to vomit now the stress, I may have to go back to diazepam which I used previously together with some training. She just started to recover from 4th July and this morning decided to go with me on our walk for first time time Thursday and then loud gunshots sent her running home, I feel so bad for her, she trusted me to come with. Oh and we won”t talk about the thunder storms we have had here in Texas over past few months. I need to move states. Anyway your story made me smile and empathize with you. I also laughed when you mentioned your sister and Dinah the aggressive momma dog, I took one from the local shelter last year, exact same scenario and she now lives with my mom. From one animal lover to another. Thank you.

  11. My dog is very fearful of storms and even rain. This year our next door neighbor shot off very very loud M-80’s for 1 whole hour!! Not only was my poor dog affected, but also my cats. There should be a law against this in a residential neighborhood!!!

  12. My brother lives on five acres east of Moab Utah. He dog is half German shepherd and half Greyhound, so she is good at catching skunks. He found, out of desperation, that lemon/like soda works really well to deskunk. His worst skunk was when he heard the dog bark, and he opened the door to get her inside. Unfortunately, the skunk was on the porch. He got the full shot of skunk!

  13. I have 2 rescue dogs. One arrived with a phobia to thunderstorms and fireworks, and sought shelter in any small, enclosed space– closets, under beds, the lower kitchen cupboards (a current favorite); she even tried to climb into the refrigerator when I opened the door. The other dog developed the same phobia at 11 years of age; she is calmed by my presence, so I sit up with her until the worst of the noise is over. I tried Sileo this year for the first dog and it worked within a half hour to calm her for about 3 hours. It is not inexpensive, but may help other dogs.
    The hydrogen peroxide-baking soda-dish soap mixture works well to remove skunk odor provided that it is used on a DRY dog. Also be aware that it may bleach the fur of a dark-colored dog (my black schipperke’s coat turned a rusty red color). I felt it was worth to get rid of the smell!

  14. I have a Chihuahua that is petrified of thunderstorms (long story) and now that she is older even hard rain showers. I have to keep up with the weather on a daily/hourly basis as I live in the south. I’ve found (other than a thunder shirt) that Sheep’s Milk Yogurt works wonders for her. It is available online from Ewegurt.com It is freeze dried and I add about a tsp of water and mix well. When a storm is on the way…I say Boni it’s time for your yogurt and she eats it like it was ice cream! It is made in the USA and SKU#723980-915866. Hope this helps. Jennifer

  15. I hate fireworks because both of my rescues are terrified of them and thunderstorms. We have tried everything…nothing helps.

  16. I used CBD oil treats on my 12 year old noise-phobic Welsh Terrier mix for the first time over July 4th weekend. It seems to help. We had some really loud thunder storms last night and when I woke up and checked on him, he wasn’t in his usual hidey-hole under the bed, he was sleeping out in the open on the floor. Yeah!

  17. Indeed they hate fireworks as well as tv at high volumen mostly , vacuum cleaners, they will bark them without end but you cant blame then. Their ears are capable of hearing sounds that vibrate at greater than 20,000 vibrations per second (20,000Hz)

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