It’s a sticky situation that you never want to encounter —
You’ve let your canine friend out to do their business and explore, but instead they have tangled with a defensive force of nature worse than a skunk. Your inquisitive and playful pooch has just came out on the losing end with a porcupine. Knowing what to do when your dog has been quilled by a porcupine is not only important to your dog’s health and safety, but just as vital is how fast you act. Here’s what you should do if your dog ever finds himself quilled.
The Quilling Effect
First, don’t panic or approach the porcupine. Even though porcupines are slow moving, nocturnal herbivores and are typically non-aggressive; they do tend to have a keen sense of smell and will have no problem fiercely defending themselves – or their den – if something gets too close. Keep in mind that the average porcupine is armed from their head to the tip of their tail with up to 30,000 barbed quills. Hence, it’s best to leave the beast well enough alone and call your maimed pooch to your side without further confrontation.
Caveat ⁓ It’s a common misconception that porcupines ‘shoot’ you with quills. On the contrary, porcupines often wield their quill-filled tails as clubs.
Chances are your dog’s first reaction will be to rub his face with his paws in an attempt to remove the quills and soothe the area. Try to prevent this as safely as you can in order to reduce further injury. There are multiple reasons for this. Porcupine quills are equipped with a razor sharp barb. Similar to a fish hook at the base, the quills are able to penetrate inward through the skin and deep muscle tissue with every movement. In addition, your beloved canine may inadvertently break off the quill – allowing it to lodge deeper and cause removal to become increasingly more difficult.
Assessing the Severity
If you’re lucky, your dog may receive a minor quilling of just a few quills. As long as the quills aren’t in areas like your dog’s eyelids or mouth, you can safely remove them at home on your own. However, if your dog has a major quilling with many quills all over his body, or if the quills are located on vital areas such as your dog’s eyes and mouth, then you will need veterinarian intervention to professionally and safely remove the quills.
No matter what, try to keep yourself calm! Remember that your furbaby feeds off your energy whether it be anxious or calm. Quillings look alarming and are painful no doubt. But the calmer you are and help to keep your dog stay still, the less painful and traumatic the situation will be for your dog. For his or her sake, find your Zen!
Remove Quills If Possible
If you feel that you can remove the quills, then start by trimming the spines of the quills down to about an inch or so one at a time. Use a pair of clippers or sharp scissors to quickly trim the spines for a smoother, easier removal. Next, take a pair of pliers and quickly pull the quill straight out. It’s important to make sure that you pull out the full quill, including the tip, so that the area doesn’t later get irritated. Try to pull the quills out in a single, fast movement to minimize the pain that this will cause your dog.
It’s important to remember that porcupine quills do not simply work their way out in time. Their barbed quills are not anything like a common splinter you would get in your finger. Because of the unique shape of porcupine quills, they move inwards opposed to outward. Leaving a quill in will only result in further, more serious injury to your pet.
Porcupine quills are known to carry various bacteria which can cause some nasty infections for your pet. So be sure that once you have removed the quills, you clean the area thoroughly and treat the wounds with some antibiotic ointment. Then, call your veterinarian’s office to schedule a welfare check up appointment to ensure your pet is recovering without a complications.
Monitor for Infection
Infection is a possibility anytime that your dog’s skin is punctured, and since porcupine quills are loaded with bacteria the possibilities are simply endless for infection and abscesses. If pieces of the quill are unexpectedly left in your dog’s skin, infection may set in very quickly. Use due diligence to monitor your dog for signs of infection throughout the coming days and even weeks following the attack. Particularly for quill sites that may have punctured internal organs. Here are twelve symptoms of infection that include, but are not limited to:
Loss of appetite
Foul odor at wound site
Excessive wound licking
Increased pain or whining
Lump or swelling of wound
Limping or lameness of injured limb
Fluid discharge coming from injury sites
Redness of skin around puncture or wound
Unusual heat coming from the injured areas
If you suspect that your dog is battling an infection, please don’t hesitate! Bring them to your veterinary hospital immediately for evaluation and medical treatment.
Should I go to the Vet?
In some cases, your best bet is to head to the vet’s office immediately following the incident. If your dog has sustained a serious quilling, it may be just too painful – or too many quills – for you to try to remove the quills on your own. And let’s face it, porcupine quillings even look downright intimidating! A veterinarian is skilled in these types of injuries and can sedate your dog and/or numb the area to make removal less traumatizing for your furbaby.
If your dog has been quilled in his/her face, particularly around his eyes and muzzle, then you will want a veterinary professional to remove them due to the sensitive areas like the eyes, mouth, ears and nose where quill damage can be particularly extensive and severe. In this case, calmly rush your dog to the emergency vet immediately.
Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure
Your first line of defense to prevent a porcupine quilling is to keep your dog on a leash and out of wooded areas during evening hours when porcupines are most active. From approximately one hour before dark and an hour after dawn, do your best to keep your furry bff near your side and out of thick brush.
Keep an eye out for porcupines when you’re walking your dog. It’s a good idea to teach your dog to leave objects – like porcupines – on vocal command. Our dog obedience classes can teach you how to teach this command to your dog.
Although porcupines are primarily nocturnal, it’s not uncommon to see these prickly critters out during the day foraging for a tasty bite to eat on twigs, plant life or grasslands. So to spite your best efforts, your dog may still find a porcupine. But the key is to stay alert and take appropriate steps to reduce the chances.
A Painless Alternative
If your typical go-to spot for playtime and potty-time has recently become a local porcupine hangout, you’re new to the area or just visiting; then we invite you to try out the Bed and Biscuit Day Care Center. For your convenience and to better serve our client’s needs, we now offer two metropolitan locations found in North Austin as well as Lakeway.