Skunk spray toxicosis: An odiferous tale - Veterinary Medicine
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Skunk spray toxicosis: An odiferous tale
Skunks thrive across the lower 48 United States. Be prepared—your next patient may be skunked! Here's what you need to understand and treat skunk spray toxicosis.



Treatment of skunk spray is primarily symptomatic and supportive. Dermal decontamination involves bathing. The goal is to convert thiols into nonodorous compounds. Thiols are not water-soluble, even with soap. A baking soda and peroxide mixture will oxidize thiols into water-soluble sulfonates (see "Krebaum skunk odor removal formula" below for recipe and instructions). Pets should be bathed outside so the spray does not contaminate household furnishings.4

For ocular exposures, flush the animal's eyes with tepid water. If an animal has received a heavy spray or multiple exposures, obtain baseline blood work. A complete blood count and serum chemistry profile should be obtained on arrival at the clinic. Monitor the animal for the next 72 hours.

If clinical signs consistent with methemoglobinemia or Heinz body anemia develop, administer intravenous fluids. Blood transfusions may be required. To treat methemoglobinemia, give N-acetylcysteine at a 140-mg/kg loading dose followed by 70 mg/kg orally or intravenously every six hours for six to eight treatments.

Skunks can carry rabies. If a pet is bitten by a skunk, initiate appropriate treatment, prophylaxis, and monitoring, and report the case to the proper authorities.

Charlotte Means, DVM, MLIS, DABVT, DABT
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center
1717 S. Philo Road, Suite 36
Urbana, IL 61802


1. Skunk (Mepitidae) in depth. Available at: Accessed June 10, 2011.

2. Wikipedia contributors. "Skunk," In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia website. Accessed June 10, 2011.

3. Wood WF. The history of skunk defensive secretion research. Chem Educator 1999;4(2):44-50.

4. Wood WF. Chemistry of skunk spray. 1998. Updated on 6 October 1998. Available from: Accessed on June 10, 2011.

5. Zaks KL, Tan EO, Thrall MA. Heinz body anemia in a dog that had been sprayed with skunk musk. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2005;226(9):1516-1518, 1500.

6. Robertson JE, Christopher MM, Rogers QR. Heinz body formation in cats fed baby food containing onion powder. J Am Vet Med Assoc 1998;212(8):1260-1266.

7. Fettman MJ. Comparative aspects of glutathione metabolism affecting individual susceptibility of oxidative damage. Compend Contin Educ Pract Vet 1991;13(7):1079-1088.

8. Yamoto O, Maede Y. Susceptibility to onion-induced hemolysis in dogs with hereditary high erythrocyte reduced glutathione and potassium concentrations. Am J Vet Res 1992;53(1):134-137.

Krebaum skunk odor removal formula*

  • 1 quart fresh 3% hydrogen peroxide
  • cup baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
  • 1-2 tsp of liquid dishwashing detergent

For large dogs, add one quart of tepid water to ensure complete coverage.

Mix the above ingredients together.

Bathe the animal outdoors. Apply the formula to the pet, working deeply into the fur, and allow it to set for five minutes.

Rinse with copious amount of water after five minutes.

Repeat if necessary.


  • The mixture must be used promptly and will not work if stored for any length of time.
  • Do not store in a closed container. The container could break as the peroxide releases oxygen.
  • The pet's fur (as well as clothing, towels, and carpeting) may be bleached by the formula.

*Source: Krebaum P. Skunk odor removal. Chem Engineer News 1993;Oct 18:99.


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