Dogs

How to Get the Skunk Smell Off Your Dog

11.12.08 | 11 Comments

Paul Krebaum's skunk remover invention

Tomato juice only masks the skunk musk.
Paul Krebaum, a chemist, discovered a solution that chemically neutralizes skunk odor:

1 Quart H2O2    +    1/4 C Baking Soda    +    1 tsp liquid dish soap

(this is enough for one small dog or a cat — scale up for a Bull Mastiff)

In an open container mix  ingredients and use immediately.
Put on rubber gloves. Place one cotton ball in either ear of your dog (to protect the inner ear tissue from the cleaning mixture).
Rub the mixture into your dog’s coat, being very careful to avoid eyes, ears and mouth.
In 5 minutes rinse the coat with clean water. Repeat if smell persists.

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Seti hasn’t had a skunk encounter in several years. I was pregnant with Chas when Ford watched me through the glass shower pane. I poured a quart of tomato juice over Seti, who in turn broadcast the tomatoskunk  across the bathroom and  onto the walls. His coat turned salmon pink, a color that lasted longer than the odor, and one week later he still stank like tomatoskunk when I decided to bathe him in lavender shampoo. The color indeed faded but for all my effort the smell became lavendertomatoskunk.

Skunk spray contains chemical compounds called thiols, which contain noxious sulphur that our noses can detect easily in amounts as tiny as parts per billion. One of the things that produces thiols in nature is the degradation of proteins. It’s thiols that make decomposing flesh and feces both smell so bad. Almost all animals are naturally repulsed by thiols — and good thing; it’s a survival trait that keeps them from eating things that will make them sick.

To make it worse, skunk spray has incredible staying power. In addition to thiols, skunk spray contains corresponding thioacetates. Thiols are highly volatile and dissipate quickly, but thioacetates react slowly with water to form thiols. So the smell of skunk can take a very long time to wear off, and washing it off with water only keeps activating new scent!

Skunk odor causes “olfactory fatigue,” wearing out our odor receptors to the point that we can’t smell skunk (or any other strong odor) anymore. But we can smell tomato juice! And we’d swear it took care of the problem, when in fact it only masked it.

Krebaum discovered that if you could bind oxygen molecules with thiols, they’d turn into chemicals that didn’t smell bad at all. Hydrogen peroxide mixes with baking soda to produce huge amounts of oxygen, and to remove skunk smell thiols, that does the trick! And the dishwashing soap? It’s there to break up the scent oils to let the oxygen mix with the thiols.

dog bath

 

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It’s been fifteen years since I last studied the chemistry of skunk odor. Back then, all I had to do for class was memorize the name and structure of the beta mercapthan. To find all this detail out I relied on the congruous internets, with most of the technical facts extracted from Edward Willett’s Science Column.




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