Skip to Content

How long does skunk smell last on a dog?

How long does skunk smell last on a dog?

Living in the country with dogs, it’s an inevitability. At some point, your dog will get sprayed. I had heard about the overpowering stench, but that didn’t prepare me for the assault my nose experienced when I encountered it first hand. 

Sure, I’d driven by places where a skunk had sprayed, so I was familiar with the smell. However, it’s another matter when you are up close and personal with it on your dog. 

Of course, my two main questions were how long will this last, and how do I get rid of it. 

How long does skunk smell last on a dog?

Your dog got sprayed by a skunk. Now you’d rather park a garbage can in your living room than let your pooch in the house. How long can this nightmare last?

Can You Smell That Smell

The bad news is that the smell can last up to 3 weeks. The good news is that you can remove the smell with some patience and effort. However, you’ll want to be sure you handle it the right way, or you may make the problem worse. 

What Makes Skunk Spray Stink?

The first time you catch a whiff of the pungent odor, you are bound to wonder what could create such an awful odor. Skunk spray is composed of an oil known as thiol, which contains sulfur compounds. This is why the smell can resemble a rotten egg or a horrendous fart. 

The thiol is so potent that it can be smelled from a half a mile away. It also lingers on any surface it comes into contact with. 

Spreading the Stench

One of the worst aspects of skunk spray is that it has a talent of sticking to items, including skin, hair, clothes, and carpet. It can also be spread to other surfaces, pets, or people. 

This is because it contains oils. Have you ever chopped a hot pepper and then touched your face? Perhaps you even washed your hands, thinking you had removed the spicy residue, only to find that you were wrong when your face began to burn. 

Perhaps you’ve had cooking oil on your hands, and unthinkingly touched your favorite shirt, creating an oil stain. 

Oils travel with contact. This means if you touch your dog, you will pick up some of the skunk smell. If your dog rolls on the furniture or even shakes their coat after being sprayed, your home essentially gets sprayed as well. 

Why and How Do Skunks Spray?

Skunks spray as a defense mechanism. When they spray an animal, the animal will leave them alone. A single spray can take up to 10 days to replenish, so they only use it when they must. 

Ironically, the skunk has a similarity to dogs. They both have anal gland sacs. Dogs use the oil from these glands to send messages to other dogs by coating their poop. Skunks, however, save the oil in their glands to spray at predators. It is constantly created in very small amounts, and then saved up for when the skunk needs it. 

Their other defense is their coloring. They have a distinctive black and white pattern that makes them instantly recognizable. This lets animals know to stay away from them. Bees and snakes also use this method, and some snakes even mimic the coloring of poisonous snakes.

Skunks have two nipple-like squirters on each side of their anus. They will typically warn the animal with a stomp and raising their tail. If the animal doesn’t back away, they spray.

They are very accurate as well. They aim for the face, because the smelly liquid has the greatest impact when sprayed into the face for obvious reasons. Skunks are accurate from 10-20 feet away, so if they are close enough to spray you, they are probably close enough to hit their target.  

How to get rid of skunk smell on a dog?

There are a few ways to get rid of the skunk smell on a dog. It is an oil, which makes it hard to remove. Follow these steps to get your dog smelling fresh again. 

Don’t Spread It

To avoid spreading the skunk smell, you have two options. The first is to bathe them outside. If this isn’t possible, you’ll have to bring them in carefully. 

Wrap them in a towel before bringing them inside. Bring them directly to the bathroom. Place towels around the tub to catch any excess oil. 

Wear Gloves and Old Clothes

Before you begin the deskunking process, you’ll need to put on gloves. The oil from skunk spray will soak into your skin, just as it does your dog’s coat. 

Getting the skunk smell off your dog only to smell it on your hands is not a pleasant experience, so glove up!

It’s also wise to put on clothes that you don’t mind ruining. The skunk smell may wash out, but there’s no guarantee. Better to not risk your favorite shirt. 

This also holds true for towels and anything else you plan to come into contact with the skunk spray. Grab some old towels, use a cleaning rag to wipe down surfaces. If you can’t get the skunk spray out, you can always toss them. 

DIY Skunk Spray Remover

The ingredients in DIY skunk spray remover are 1/4 cup baking soda, 1-2 teaspoons of dishwashing detergent, and 1 quart of hydrogen peroxide. 

Mix the ingredients together and lather your dog with the mixture. Leave on for 5 minutes. Be careful around your pooch’s eyes, because the mixture can irritate the eyes. 

Once you’ve let the mixture sit on your dog, rinse with warm water. You can finish the process with dog shampoo to further remove the oil. 

This mixture can bleach your dog’s coat, particularly if they have a dark coat. However, a bad bleach job is highly preferable to a horrid stench. 

Store Bought De-skunking Solution

You can also use a store bought de-skunking solution. These are specifically formulated to break down the oil in the spray and remove it. Generally, you should massage the solution onto your dog’s coat and into their skin, and allow it to sit for five minutes. Then rinse the solution. However, check your product for specific instructions. After you’ve rinsed, follow up with your regular pet shampoo. 

Repeat if Necessary

No matter which method you use, you may need to repeat the process if your dog still smells. You’ll want to wait about 24 hours or longer before repeating. 

Bathing your dog too often can dry their skin and cause skin issues, so use caution with repeated bathing. 

Removing Skunk Smell From Home and Items

Some deskunking solutions can also be used on carpets, furniture, and dog collars. Be sure to check the label to be sure it’s safe to use on these items. 

You can also use vinegar, which will break down the skunk smell over time. The easiest way to do this is to boil vinegar on the stove, or place cups of vinegar in the areas that smell. You can also mix a vinegar/water spray and spray it on furniture and carpets.

Vinegar has a very strong smell, but once the smell dissipates, it leaves your home deodorized.  

How long does skunk smell last on a dog if I wash them?

This will vary depending on what you wash them with, how much spray they got, and how quickly you wash them.

No Shampoo

Your first instinct may be to throw your dog in the bath and grab your standard dog shampoo. This is the worst mistake you can make, other than letting your skunk dog spread the spray all over your home, for a similar reason. 

If you bathe them without de-skunking, you won’t wash away the smell. Instead, it sets the thiol into the hair, making it more difficult to get rid of. No matter how bad they smell, do not act without proper de-skunking materials. 

After you’ve de-skunked them, feel free to wash them with regular shampoo. No matter what, do not bathe them first. 

Skunk Smell After Treatment

Unfortunately, even the best de-skunking treatment may not completely remove the smell, particularly after one wash. The smell should be less prominent at least. 

Even after two washes, a faint odor may linger. This should go away within 1-2 weeks. 

Is skunk spray dangerous to dogs?

Most people assume that the only harm a skunk can do is to your nose. In humans, it can cause eye irritation and nausea. In rare cases, temporary blindness can occur. When your dog gets sprayed, however, it can cause some health problems. 


Skunks tend to aim for the face, and the eyes in particular. This can cause vision problems and burning. Your dog may injure their eyes further trying to scratch them. 

Skunk spray can cause vision problems and deteriorate the eyes, but in most cases, it only causes severe irritation. 

Mouth and Nose

The biggest concern for your dog is inhaling or swallowing the spray. Because the spray contains sulphur, it is dangerous to your dog. Dogs can’t tolerate sulphur containing foods, including onions and garlic. highly concentrated thiol can have serious consequences. 

The first symptom you’ll see is vomiting. You can expect some nausea and vomiting if your dog is sprayed. However, if it is severe and doesn’t subside, or is accompanied by other symptoms, get your dog to the vet. The toxic compound can cause toxic anemia, organ damage, and even death. 

What to do if my dog gets sprayed by a dog?

The first thing you’ll want to do if your dog gets sprayed by a skunk is to deskunk them as soon as possible. However, this isn’t the first thing you should do. 

Check Your Dog’s Wellbeing

The first concern is your dog’s wellbeing. As bad as the smell is, it won’t cause your dog any real harm on their hair. The concern is the spray that has gotten into their eyes, mouth, nose, and lungs. 

Rinse your dog’s eyes with water immediately. Once they are rinsed, check for redness and swelling. You’ll also need to check for irritation in the mouth. Lastly, listen for breathing difficulties. Because the spray can irritate the lungs, it can cause wheezing or labored breathing. 

If you notice any of these issues, bring your dog to the vet for evaluation. Serious health problems or death from skunk spray is rare, but it does occur. 

Next Steps

Once you know your dog is ok, then you can work on the smell. Follow the steps mentioned earlier to remove the skunk smell. You may need to use more than one treatment, or use different treatments until the smell is completely gone.