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Got Skunked? How to Remove Skunk Odor from Your Pet

April 1, 2024

Reviewed by Dr. Fiona Lee

For those who know the horror, cleaning a pet that's been sprayed by a skunk can be an unsavory business. Do a poor job of cleaning and the rancid smell may not only cling to your pet's fur, but also to you and items in your home.

There are things you can do immediately to ease this difficult situation. And chances are, you already have what you need in your house to conduct an emergency cleaning of your pet.

This article will take you through the steps to remove skunk odor from your pet's fur—including what to do and what not to do—and how to prevent such events in the future. It's important to know what skunk spray is and why its odor can linger for so long to address it properly. A prompt and thorough cleaning should be a priority for your pet's well-being and household harmony.

What is skunk spray and why is it so persistent?

Skunk spray is an oily liquid produced in the skunk's anal glands (or perianal sacs).1 In the wild, the pungent odor serves as a deterrent to predators and for territorial disputes with other skunks. Skunks that feel threatened by your pet may spray at them as an act of defense.

Skunk spray contains thiols, which are volatile chemical compounds that contain sulfur. Because they are volatile, the yellowish oily liquid evaporates quickly into a gas.1

The smell from skunk spray—also known as skunk musk or skunk essence—is akin to rotten eggs and can be quite intense.1 Sulfur atoms in these compounds provide stability and staying power, allowing them to bond strongly to the surfaces they touch.2 Combine that with the fact that skunk spray can be projected as either a heavy stream or a mist,2 and the prospect of completely removing the odor from your pet's fur—and your skin and hair as you clean your pet—can be daunting.

Being sprayed by a skunk can also be a painful experience, as skunk spray can cause short-term stinging, burning, redness and tearing of the eyes,1 and can be quite harmful if it gets in your pet's bloodstream. A skunk encounter can be a stressful event for your pet, so prompt removal is crucial.

What to do when your pet gets sprayed by a skunk

Here are the immediate steps to take if your fur buddy gets skunked.

Step 1: Pinpoint the spray spot

First, determine where on its body your pet was sprayed. Above all, protect your eyes, and determine if the spray got into your pet's eyes. If so, plan to clean this area first with cool running water.3

Step 2: Prepare an area for cleaning a skunk-sprayed pet

If your pet has been sprayed by a skunk, hopefully you discover this while your pet is still outside. Doing an initial cleaning outdoors, with a hose and a cleanser designed for the job, will help prevent the smell from lingering inside your home.

If you have to move indoors, try to prevent the spray from touching you or items in your home if possible, particularly rugs or upholstered furniture. Keep your dog on a leash and steer them to the cleaning area, while avoiding contact with the sprayed area with your skin, if possible. If you must clean your pet in your bathroom, open the windows to ventilate.1

Get your supplies in order. Here's your checklist:3

  • Rubber gloves
  • Old clothing
  • Protective eyewear like goggles
  • Pet-safe, odor-removing shampoo
  • Baking soda
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Mild liquid detergent

Step 3: Protect yourself when cleaning a skunk-sprayed pet

Much like how in-flight safety instructions urge you to put your oxygen mask on before assisting others during an emergency, do what you can to prevent the skunk oil from rubbing off your pet's fur onto you or your belongings. Wear old clothes you use for chores or yard work—something that can be disposed of if necessary—and put on rubber gloves and protective eyewear (like goggles).

Step 4: Prepare a cleaning solution to remove skunk odor

There are specific pet shampoos to remove skunk odor that you can purchase from pet stores or order online. But if you don't have some on hand when you first discover your perfumed pet, prepare a solution to use immediately. Use this simple recipe:3

  • 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide (no stronger)
  • 1/4 cup of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of mild liquid detergent

Use this cleaning solution immediately after mixing for best results, and dispose of it after use.

Step 5: Lather, rinse, repeat

While wearing rubber gloves, rub the cleaning solution into your pet's coat thoroughly. To avoid bleaching, make sure you don't leave the cleaning solution on their fur for too long.3 Rinse the fur completely and repeat as many times as necessary, avoiding your pet's eyes. Use a washcloth or soft toothbrush to apply the cleaning solution around sensitive areas like the face.

Finally, wash your dog with a pet-safe shampoo to ensure that the cleaning solution is completely removed. Pet shampoos that are specifically designed to remove skunk odor can be found at pet stores and online retailers.

Step 6: Pat dry and brush

Once you're finished rinsing your pet's fur, dispose of the cleaning solution—do not store it.3 Use an older towel to pat dry your pet, and consider disposing of the towel when finished. Finally, brush your pet's fur to facilitate faster drying. Keep your pet outdoors to dry, optimally in a sunny area.

Keep in mind that you may need to repeat the cleaning process if the odor is not fully removed. Some people report the odor lingering for months, even if their pet was thoroughly cleaned. If the odor gets on your clothes, add 1/2 cup of baking soda to your regular laundry detergent.3

Are there health risks to being sprayed by a skunk?

Aside from the emotional trauma of a skunk encounter, your pet may be at risk of stinging, burning and redness on their skin. If skunk spray gets into their eyes, it can cause corneal ulcers or temporary blindness, and if spray is inhaled, it can irritate your pet's lungs. Monitor your pet closely for a few days after the event. If your pet exhibits behavior that shows it is bothered by the skunk spray, contact your veterinarian for an examination.

In very rare cases, particularly after a heavy spray, severe anemia can develop, causing weakness and a darkening of the gums. Monitor your pet closely for one to three days after exposure, and take them to the vet immediately if you see these signs.4 Skunks are also known to carry rabies, but the virus is only transmitted by bites, not the spray.

Help your pet avoid skunks

Pet encounters with skunks can be largely prevented. Like most woodland creatures, skunks—which are most active at night—can be attracted to your property in search of food, and encounters with them are most likely to occur at dawn and dusk during the warmer months of the year.5

Don't leave your pet's food bowls—full or empty—outdoors, as this can attract rodents and skunks, as can poorly sealed garbage containers and compost piles.5 If your property is fenced off, search for holes or other vulnerabilities that allow pests into your yard, and mend them as needed. Lastly, keep your pet on a leash if you're walking in areas where skunks may be prevalent.

Additional tips: What not to do in removing skunk odor

If you do not have the aforementioned ingredients to make an emergency odor-removing cleanser, you may find limited success with older skunk-odor-removal remedies, such as vinegar diluted with water.3 Avoid using tomato juice—it simply does not work, it will make a mess of your cleaning area and it may potentially attract rodents and other pests outside.1

If you've followed all the steps and the skunk odor persists, you might want to seek the advice of a professional pet groomer. If so, inform them of your need ahead of time—do not simply arrive unannounced at a groomer's shop with a stinky dog in tow.

Lean on Pets Best for your pet care advice

Ask anyone who's had to clean skunk odor off their pet and they'll tell you it's a situation best avoided—so take all preventive measures and be on alert if your pet is off leash in an area where skunks are likely to be found, such as hiking trails.

Your pet is a resilient creature and can bounce back from a skunk encounter, but they can still be traumatized by the event. Don't waste a moment! Follow all the steps above and get your pet's needs addressed as quickly as possible. Turn to Pets Best and our 24/7 Pet Helpline for answers to all your pressing pet care questions.


1. “What Happens If A Skunk Sprays Me?" S. Mekonnen, Poison Control,, accessed January 25, 2024.

2. “Here's Why Skunk Smell is So Hard to Get Rid Of," (5/2016), Iowa Department of Natural Resources,, accessed January 25, 2024.

3. “How to Get Skunk Smell Off Your Dog," J. Reisen (11/2023), American Kennel Club,, accessed January 25, 2024.

4. “What to do when your dog gets skunked," A. Cohen (1/2024), Cornell Richard P. Riney Canine Health Center,, accessed January 25, 2024.

5. “Skunks: P.U. — Stinky!" (7/2020), Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital,, accessed January 25, 2024.