When Skunks and Kerries Mix – How to De-skunk a Kerry

Reprinted from the newsletter of the Greater Boston KBT Club, “The Kerry Blue Terrier Times”, Vol. 16, No. 1, January, 1997. Please contact the author for permission to reprint.

Or, I should say, don’t mix. A compilation of ideas all boil down to basic instructions for de-skunking:

  • de-skunk and wash as soon as possible wearing rubber gloves
  • don’t let the dog into the house until it’s had one treatment, or if you must (as in cold weather), wrap your Kerry up in a disposable sheet or towel, and carry into your bathtub
  • plan on burying all materials used to cover or dry the dog, possibly including your clothing
  • be prepared! Here are some tips for dealing with a skunked Kerry:

A freshly-sprayed Kerry will contaminate everything it goes near (imagine the sprayed Kerry charging into the house, rubbing up against the sofa and giving a good shake in your kitchen; your house will have a lingering odor which, over time, you will no longer smell, but visitors will. Better to ruin some clothing and a sheet than have the house skunked.).

The offending substance is oily as well as intensely smelly; treatments that seem to work best involve removing as much oil as possible as soon as possible, and following-up for many months afterwards. A single bathing will not remove all of the odor from the dog. A wet Kerry has no doggy smell; a Kerry who has run into the wrong end of a skunk and gets wet later will smell skunky again, and for quite a while.

Use eye drops (saline-based) to wash out the eyes if the face has been sprayed, and also apply mineral oil or eye drops for dogs before you continue to bathe the dog to protect his eyes from the soap. Check inside the dog’s mouth also; rinse out with warm water if you can get the Kerry to keep still. A barking Kerry usually gets sprayed right in the face and open mouth.

A wetting agent, such as a dishwashing detergent (particularly Ivory, the original version), will break through the oil, allowing the deodorizer to penetrate the hair shafts.

Choices of deodorizer are acidic products that you can keep on-hand: vinegar, lemon juice, tomato juice.

Dilute vinegar with water; soap the sprayed areas, apply the vinegar, leave it on for a few minutes, and then soap again. Don’t get the vinegar in the dog’s eyes.

Diluted lemon juice is a vinegar alternative, although I would rather use vinegar on a dark-colored dog such as a Kerry. In a pinch, use it rather than wait to buy vinegar. Follow up with several soapy baths. Use tomato juice straight out of the can; you will need quite a lot of it. Rinse, re-apply.

A commercial product that is said to work well to neutralize the skunk odor without leaving an offending odor of its own, is ODOR-MUTE. SKUNK OFF is another advertised product that no one I know has used.

Another popular formula, printed in the April, 1996 issue of KBTT, is:

  • 1 quart (1 litre) 3% hydrogen peroxide (readily sold, very cheaply in drug stores and supermarkets)
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) liquid dish detergent or dog shampoo

There are two ways to use this concoction. Either mix the three ingredients all together, or use just the peroxide and baking soda, rinse, and then soap up separately with the detergent. Regardless of which method you choose, use immediately as the chemical reaction of the peroxide and baking soda is what “bubbles” the oil (and smell) off the hair and skin. Leave this mixture on for several minutes, up to 10, then rinse your Kerry thoroughly with warm water; re-soap and rinse well at least one more time.

After bathing, use paper towels or other disposable materials to ring the dampness out of the coat as well as you can. Bury these towels and any other materials that are now ruined very deeply in the yard.

For those of you who hike, peroxide and baking soda can be carried in a backpack–just don’t mix them together until needed.

Listerine mouthwash diluted with water and sprayed on the coat can take care of lingering odors, particularly around the face. This is also a good method of neutralizing Kerry “stinky beard” between baths, skunked or not.

As always, be wary of skunks roaming in the daytime. They are nocturnal, and I personally would report any seen before dusk to the local animal control as a probable rabies victim. Here in southern New England, rabies has a strong hold in the raccoon population, and skunks are falling prey to it in increasing numbers. If in doubt, assume that your dog has been in contact with the skunk’s saliva, and treat accordingly. If my dog were sprayed in the daytime, I would be extra careful in handling him until I’d gotten him soaped up and rinsed off at least once. The animal control officer may be able to provide specific tips on how to handle such a case; a call to your veterinarian and a possible rabies booster shot is advisable. When in doubt, ask.


by Maryanne Schaefer


Loss of habitat is forcing more and more wildlife into populated areas, so even if you are a city dweller, your dog may encounter a skunk. There are
several products on the market made specifically for removing skunk spray. Two such products are “Nature’s Miracle Skunk Odor Remover” by Nature’s
Miracle, and “Skunk Off” by Thornwell Corporation.

Some suggestions for bathing a dog who has skunk odor:

Before handling your dog, you may want to change your clothes. Skunk spray is very difficult to remove from clothing.

Cover the dog’s bed with something to protect it.

Leaving the dog outdoors for a while will greatly reduce the odor.

Determine where the spray hit the dog. Depending on your dog’s hair type, you may be able to trim away or comb out some of the affected hair.

When you’re ready to wash the dog, only clean the sprayed area. Skunk spray is oily and can easily be spread all over the dog. Since you will likely
have to repeat the procedure, save an all-over bath until the second or third washing.

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