At Home With Nature

A Natural Way to Remove Skunk Smell from Dogs – Apple Cider Vinegar

Living in a rural area means we have lots of wildlife visitors. Loads of friendly pollinators visit our garden, deer come to browse at the apples that fall from our apple trees, and skunks make themselves at home here too.

For the most part the skunks tend to stay out of our fenced in back yard, but every once in a while there’s a late night encounter between a skunk and our dogs, Leo and Charlie.

Two dogs outside in grass.
Leo is always a good sport posing for photos, but clearly his expression in this picture is saying, “Um, mom, what about our walk?”

My first indication of one of these unwanted encounters is hearing barking from outdoors that has a greater sense of alarm than usual. Then when Leo and Charlie come to the back door to be let in, I can immediately tell what’s happened. They are squinting, their faces look oily, and they are rubbing their eyes with their paws.

If I let them, next they’ll come in and roll all over the living room rug trying to get the burning, chemical smell from the skunk off of them – inadvertently spreading the skunk smell wherever they roll.

If you’ve never smelled skunk spray up close, it is quite different than smelling skunk spray from a distance. From a distance, this smell is somewhat musky, unpleasant, and recognizable.

Up close, it’s quite different. It smells like chemical warfare – burning and acrid. It’s not an odor you want in your house, on your dogs, or anywhere near you really! Our wild black and white neighbors the skunks have quite the amazing defense mechanism!

The first time Leo and Charlie got thoroughly doused with this defensive spray, it was late at night and I was in no mood for giving impromptu dog baths. I tried wiping them down with soapy paper towels but it just didn’t work. Chad had a couple of suggestions he had heard before: wiping the dog fur down using tomato juice or peanut butter.

Tomato juice just isn’t one of those things we keep on hand. Peanut butter, yes, but that sounded incredibly messy. Plus, of course the dogs would try to eat the peanut butter so that was a no go because peanut butter makes Leo sick.

I thought about the natures of those two items. Peanut butter is oily, tomato juice is acidic. If both of those remedies work, then other ones with the same properties probably do too.

I turned to the internet for other options and found one that sounded a lot easier to employ: apple cider vinegar.

Two dogs in kitchen with bottle of apple cider vinegar.
ACV is not as interesting as treats.

We tried it and it worked great. It didn’t remove 100% of the skunk smell, but I would say that a couple of ACV treatments took the smell down to about 25% or lower of its full potency – which is the difference between having a dog that makes the entire house reek, to one that lets off a whiff of eau de pepe le pew only when up close.

Here’s what I do now when our dogs have gotten skunked:

1. Grab them as soon as they come into the house and keep them in the kitchen to prevent them rolling around in the living room – or (gasp!) even worse, the bedroom.

2. Douse a handful of paper towels with apple cider vinegar.

3. Wipe the dogs down with the ACV-infused paper towel, being careful not to get it close to their eyes.

4. Smell the dog, repeat as needed. Usually I wipe them down with ACV twice each.

5. After the apple cider vinegar treatment, I take a paper towel with just water on it and wipe them down with that to rinse off the ACV.

Leo and Charlie don’t love being wiped with ACV, but they are miserable with skunk spray on them, so this is not only helping our noses, it’s helping them recover from their encounter too.

Like I said, it’s not perfect but it helps enormously while awaiting the passage of time or a thorough bath to remove the remainder. I bet you’ll agree with me that late night dog bathing is not high on your bucket list!

Once the worst of the skunk spray has been removed, our dogs can go back to being relaxed and happy.

Happy dog lying on living room floor with ball nearby.
Happy Leo lounging in the living room.

Have you tried this remedy yourself? If so, let me know in the comments!

If you’re interested in other natural pet care remedies, check out this article too:

A Natural Remedy for Ringworm – Coconut Oil

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