At 10:30 p.m. on a recent Sunday, my husband and I were getting ready for bed. It’s my job to close up the chickens for the night and our Australian cattle dog, Nala, volunteered to help. As I secured the coop, I noticed she was no longer by my side, but rolling around in the neighbor’s yard, probably in deer scat, I figured. Reluctantly, she came when called and, as I was scolding her for jumping the fence into the neighbor’s yard, a pungent odor overwhelmed me. She’d had a run-in with a skunk!
The smell was coming off her in waves. My husband quickly threw her in the tub as I frantically searched the internet for home remedies. We’ve all heard about the tomato juice solution, but, not only did we not have any on hand, I learned in my hasty research that tomato juice eliminating skunk smell is actually a myth. What it does is trick your sense of smell into smelling tomatoes and, thanks to something called olfactory fatigue, you stop smelling the skunk odor so clearly. Tomato juice does not, apparently, chemically alter or reduce the stench. In order to actually eliminate the odor, its chemical components need to be removed.
My Googling skills yielded a quick solution: baking soda, dish soap and hydrogen peroxide. Of course, there was no hydrogen peroxide to be found in our house (a problem that has since been remedied), so we combined baking soda, dish soap and dog shampoo. We let it soak in for a few minutes then my husband scrubbed her down thoroughly. She normally fights taking baths, but, in this instance, seemed to admit she’d done a bad thing. Our other dog, Delphi, seemed slightly disturbed by the commotion and generally shied away from her stinky sister. She seemed to enjoy being the only dog allowed in the bed that night.
While the baking soda solution did a pretty good job, the smell lingered for days. We wanted to get Nala groomed, but decided to wait until after a scheduled camping trip, during which she likes to find every mud puddle on the trail and roll in just about anything she can find. We joked that at least her smell would keep any predators away from our campsite.
Finally, we took Nala to Dirty Paws Pet Spa in Waitsfield. Cheri Bovee at Dirty Paws confirmed that the baking soda, dish soap and hydrogen peroxide solution is the way to go, but she added another tip: put it on them dry before you hose them down. And remember to keep it away from their eyes. My research did find that, if they get sprayed in the eyes, you should rinse them out with a saline solution. Of course, an array of commercial de-skunking products is also available online and in local hardware stores. Nature’s Miracle seems to be a popular and well-reviewed brand.
Nala came home from the pet spa smelling like flowers…and still a little bit like skunk. The smell will linger for a while, we learned.
So, now we’re prepared if/when our rascal decides to saunter up to the next skunk she sees. And from now on, when I go to close the chicken coop for the night, Nala will be staying inside.