How To Get Rid of Skunk Smell On a Dog

Updated: Apr. 12, 2023

Discover how to remove skunk smell with our step-by-step guide, and learn essential prevention tips to avoid future encounters.

There’s nothing quite like the overpowering stench of skunk spray. Although the putrid smell of the dead seal my dog found and rolled in (and rolled, and rolled) as I was running down the beach, begging him to stop, is definitely a contender!

Besides the overwhelmingly repulsive scent, skunk spray can actually cause significant irritation. So if your find your dog the victim of a skunk attack, you need to take prompt action. Getting that disgusting skunk smell off your dog isn’t really that difficult, as long as you know what to do.

Let’s take a look at why skunk odor smells so, so bad, how to get rid of it quickly and effectively, and when to get help.

What Is Skunk Spray?

Skunk spray is a defensive secretion skunks release from their anal glands. This potent mixture contains thiols, sulfur-based compounds responsible for the pungent odor. If skunks feel threatened, they can spray this intense liquid up to 10 feet to ward off the potential attacker.

Because skunk spray is so potent, it can cause significant eye irritation and even temporary blindness if the compounds reach delicate corneas. If your dog gets sprayed in the mouth, it can cause nausea, vomiting and severe anemia. In either case, take your dog to a veterinarian right away.

What To Do When a Skunk Sprays Your Dog

When your dog gets sprayed by a skunk, it’s crucial to act quickly. Here are the immediate steps you should take:

Move your dog to a well-ventilated area

Keep your dog outside, if possible, to prevent the smell from spreading indoors. If you must take your dog home by car, apply the de-skunk solution in the house. If you get it on your clothes, check out these methods to get rid of skunk smell.

Protect yourself

Wear gloves, old clothes and eye protection to avoid contact with the skunk spray.

Check your dog’s eyes and mouth

If your dog’s eyes are red, swollen or tearing, or they’re in obvious distress, flush the eyes with tepid water or a plain saline solution. Then contact a veterinarian.

Flushing the mouth is more challenging, as you need a slow, low-pressure stream of water that’s angled so your dog doesn’t swallow or aspirate it. Speak to your veterinarian before you attempt this. They’ll likely prefer you bring the dog straight to the office rather than causing extra trauma.

How To Get Rid of Skunk Odor

If you don’t have a commercial de-skunker, you can use an effective homemade de-skunking solution. But there are some things you need to know:

  • Do not use the homemade solution on or around your dog’s eyes, nose or mouth because it contains hydrogen peroxide, a significant irritant that’s dangerous when used incorrectly.
  • Only use it in a well-ventilated area.
  • Don’t let your dog lick it.
  • Mix it, use it and immediately throw the leftover solution away. You can’t store it because it will eventually explode!


  • Large plastic or glass container;
  • Spoon (a metal one may corrode);
  • Rubber gloves;
  • Eye protection;
  • Old clothes;
  • Sponge.


  • One quart 3% hydrogen peroxide (don’t use anything stronger than 3%);
  • 1/4-cup baking soda;
  • Two teaspoons liquid dish soap.
  • Water (for rinsing only).

How-to steps

  • In a large container, mix the hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and dish soap.
  • Put on gloves and immediately apply the solution to your dog’s fur, avoiding the eyes, ears, nose and mouth. Note that it will be bubbling. Sponge it onto your dog and use your gloved hands to really work the solution into the fur. Just sponging onto the surface won’t help, as skunk secretions penetrate the fur and bond with the proteins in the skin over time.
  • Work the solution into the fur anywhere there’s a trace of skunk spray and let it sit for five to 10 minutes.
  • Rinse your dog thoroughly with water.
  • Repeat, if necessary.
  • Follow up with a nice soothing shampoo with a more pleasing scent.

The solution works because the hydrogen peroxide and baking soda break down the thiols in the skunk spray, while the dish soap removes the oily residue.

Try to be calm, kind and gentle. Get a helper if necessary. You can also use a lick mat covered in your dog’s favorite spreadable treat, and let them lick away at it while you work on de-skunking them.

What Not To Do If a Skunk Sprays Your Dog

There’s a lot of really bad information out there, lots of myths touted as facts, and stuff that’s just plain dangerous. Here are some of the things you must avoid:

  • Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to flush your dog’s mouth with a hose. If you do, there’s a good chance you’ll flood his stomach and/or force water into his lungs. If your dog gets skunk oil in their mouth, call your veterinarian if you don’t know how to flush the mouth safely.
  • Do not wet your dog’s coat before you apply the de-skunking solution. Skunk smell gets worse when you add water.
  • Do not use tomato juice, vinegar or bloody Mary mix. They only mask the smell.
  • As mentioned above, do not use the homemade de-skunking solution around the eyes, ears, nose or mouth because of the hydrogen peroxide. Even many commercial products cannot be used safely on these sensitive areas, so always check the packaging first. There are de-skunking foams specifically formulated for the face.

How To Prevent Your Dog From Getting Sprayed By Skunks

Sometimes there’s no avoiding an unfortunate encounter with a skunk. However, they’re fairly timid, docile animals, so they don’t seek out humans or their nosey canine companions. Here are a few things you can do to minimize the risk of skunk encounters.

  • Keep your dog on a leash, especially during dawn and dusk when skunks are most active.
  • Make your property less attractive to skunks.
    • Install motion-activated lights to deter skunks from entering your property.
    • Get rid of potential food sources like leftover food, garbage and pet feed.
    • Clean up piles of leaves and brush and get rid of old wood piles and tree stumps to limit nesting places.
    • Block off holes under your porch or deck. Do the same around the base of your shed or other outbuildings.
  • Avoid walking somewhere where you know skunks abound.
  • Be extra cautious in spring when the females are raising their babies. They’re much more likely to attack.

If you’ve already got skunks in your yard, this what-to-know-about-skunks guide includes advice on how to get them to relocate.