Skunk-sprayed dog needs home remedy to lose odor

DEAR DR. FOX: With all the information I have read in your columns, I've never seen any article dealing with ways to remove the smell of skunk on a dog (or any animal, for that matter). I have tried several methods, to no avail. What do you advise? — L.T.H., Brewster, N.Y

DEAR L.T.H.: The scent emitted from an alarmed skunk is an oily secretion, so first use an absorbent like talcum powder or cornstarch. Work it into the dog's fur, and brush or hose it out after 15 to 20 minutes (outdoors, of course) and then apply liberal amounts of ketchup (the traditional treatment) or an enzyme-based cleaner like Nature's Miracle or Orange TKO, which is a safe cleaner and deodorizer. After 30 minutes, bathe the dog using a penetrating shampoo like Head & Shoulders or Selsun Blue.

DEAR DR. FOX: My parents have a 7-year-old male shorthair cat. He has been an indoor/outdoor cat his whole life but spends most of his time indoors. My mom wants to get him declawed and keep him indoors permanently because he has a bad habit of scratching up her furniture. My dad is concerned that he's too old and this will hurt him.

I'm concerned that never going outside again will hurt his emotional well-being. Should we declaw him?

Are these legitimate concerns? — V.P., Washington, D.C.

DEAR V.P.: Regardless of whether the cat goes outdoors or not, he's going to need some scratching areas in the house to mark his territory and give his claws a workout ("cat yoga").

Your concerns are legitimate, as are your father's. Declawing will be traumatic and could have serious lifelong complications and bring much suffering. This unethical surgical mutilation of cats removes more than their nails — it includes removal of their first digits, like the entire ends of your fingers from the last joint. Many cats become permanently crippled. It's a game of roulette. You never know how much the procedure will harm a cat or how much permanent psychological trauma it will inflict.

Set up scratch posts and scratchboards with a sprinkling of catnip and a little spray of the cat pheromone Feliway. Check my website for details about the hazards of declawing.

Your cat may take to a harness and leash and enjoy regular outdoor strolls. Alternatively, give him a screened-in cat house that can be simply constructed as an A-frame covered in chicken wire, and set it out in the yard where he can enjoy the outdoors (in good weather only).

DEAR DR. FOX: I have two 1-year-old Pomeranians. Calvin has shown alpha-dog signs since we brought him home at eight weeks. He seems to know his place with the family (eight children live at home). The problem occurs when other children come over to play.

He tends to pick one and dominate the youngster. I watched him with one child: He had a strange look on his face while staring at her. He actually bit one little girl twice. And there are certain people in the neighborhood that he wants to go after.

He has also started wetting when he sees my husband, sometimes on him. He will snuggle up to my husband at night, showing no signs that he fears him. My husband never had a dog and expects Calvin to understand more than he is capable of. He has chased the dog down angrily, punished him for running out the door, etc.

Is there a way to stop these behaviors? The dog's, I mean; I don't think I can do anything about my husband's. — P.M., St. Louis, Mo.

DEAR P.M.: Husbands can be a problem. Many flunk basic obedience school. Your spouse should learn that getting frustrated and angry at the dog will cause fear and confusion.

Calvin could benefit from the cradling therapy described on my website and in my book "Dog Body, Dog Mind." In this book, you will also learn how to better communicate with Calvin and help him not to act aggressively toward visiting children.

In the interim, keep him in another room or on a leash when children visit; and when on the leash, he must sit and stay.

Above all, he needs to learn self-control — what Ivan Pavlov called "internal inhibition" — and the cradling therapy can be extremely effective in this regard.

DEAR DR. FOX: We purchased our second male West Highland white terrier from a respected breeder. This male puppy came from a litter of two — the other pup was stillborn. We brought the pup home at 11 weeks to our 12-year-old neutered male Westie.

The older dog was quite tolerant and even played with the puppy regularly. At three months, the puppy displayed some aggressive behavior, not allowing objects to be taken out of his mouth, jealousy of the other dog, and biting anything that came between us and the other dog. We shared this information with the breeder, and he said we were not being firm and forceful enough. We tried to be more firm and seemed to manage, but there were still incidents of the puppy getting very snappy, growling and biting. We have taken the puppy to kindergarten, and he goes to daycare with other dogs and always behaves himself there — no aggressive behavior noted.

Perhaps of note: Apart from not having had littermates, the puppy's mother was taken away early. As the breeder told us, "She didn't like him anymore." — H.A., Naples, Fla.

DEAR H.A.: My guess is that this poor dog had a bad start in life, and I wonder why he was not placed in a home at the optimal age for socialization (between six to eight weeks of age). Emotionally traumatic experiences can permanently harm puppies, especially when they are affected between eight to 12 weeks of age. First, he should have a full physical to rule out any medical condition, notably craniomandibular osteopathy, not uncommon in this breed, which can make it painful to open the mouth and lead to behavioral problems.

Barring any such medical condition, he may do better in a home with no other dog to compete with, because his aggression may be dominance-motivated, at least in part. There may also be complications related to fear or a quasi-psychotic conditioning for which treatment with Xanax or Valium may help. Ask your veterinarian for a referral to a good, qualified animal-behavior therapist — not some psychic communicator — who will help you see how possibly some of your own behavior and reactions to your problem pup contribute to his difficulties.

DEAR DR. FOX: My mother was bedridden the last few months of her life. She had been taking care of my dog Heidi and said if anything ever happened to Heidi, she would love to get a cat. Well, Heidi died about a month before my mom passed away. The morning after Heidi's death, a beautiful Siamese cat came to her front door. We let him in. He walked through the house to mom's bed and curled up by her feet on the bed, where he stayed until she died. He just took up residence there. We had never seen him in the neighborhood before. — B.C., Fort Worth, Texas

DEAR B.C.: This touching story makes me wonder about the metaphysical dimensions of animal communication and awareness. But coming back to earth, I hope you kept this wonderful feline and made every effort to find his original owners in your community.

I have received a few letters like yours over the years where a strange cat or dog has come into a home right after the resident animal has passed on. Is it coincidence? I call it part of the Great Mystery.

Visit Dr. Fox's website at

Share This Story