Skunk Care and Health
VET CARE: Choose your Veterinarian more carefully than you would your primary doctor. Not all vets that treat exotics and say they know how to treat a skunk truly do. A lot of them try to treat them as a cat or ferret and some of the medications they would use on them could be either harmful or even fatal to your skunk. Make sure your vet has a lot of experience treating skunks If you need help finding a vet, please contact us. Make a list of emergency phone numbers of experienced skunk owners, your Veterinarian, and an emergency clinic that will treat a skunk if you cannot reach your vet after hours. Calling a skunk owner first may be helpful in deciding if you need to seek medical attention or if there is something, you can do for your skunk yourself. DO NOT USE ANY BLUE PEARL LOCATION OR DR. MALDONADO AS THEY HAVE KILLED SKUNKS FOR BITING.
FIRST AID KIT: Put together a first aid kit. It is useful to have the following items handy in case of an emergency.
1. Infant thermometer for verifying body temperature – a digital thermometer with protective sheaths works well.
2. Syringes, eyedropper, etc. for giving medications, hand feedings, etc. – a 3 ml syringe is a good size for a skunk.
3. Corn syrup, molasses and/or honey to raise blood sugar levels, reduce seizures or stimulate appetite
4. Children’s liquid Benadryl (allergy liquid) to reduce allergic reactions, cold relief or use as an antihistamine – should contain the active ingredient Diphenhydramine HCL only.
5. Pedialyte, Gatorade, etc. for electrolyte replacement. Pedialyte frozen as pops keep well.
6. Pepto Bismol or Kaopectate for diarrhea. It reduces intestinal cramps
7. Laxatone is a laxative – available from a veterinary office
8. Activated Charcoal power, capsules or liquid to absorb ingested poison or for drug overdose treatment or other ingested toxin.
9. Safeguard a/k/a Panacur (fenbendazole), Strongid (pyrantel pamoate), Evict DS or Nemex-2 are for worming. NOTE: wormers containing piperazine (piperazine citrate) have caused tremors, seizures, vomiting and have indicated as factors in several deaths in skunks. Erliworm is a common brand of pet wormer container piperazine.
10. Droncit is a wormer for tapeworms. It needs to be obtained from a vet.
11. Rubbing Alcohol as a general antiseptic
12. Vetericyn Plus All Animal Wound & Skin Care Treatment is a nontoxic and non-irritating, broad-spectrum antimicrobial spray does not harm healthy tissue while it kills 99.999% of most single-cell pathogens in 30 seconds—including antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria as well as fungi, viruses and spores. It does not need to be rinsed off after application. It is safe for all pets and people too. It is a great wound and skin care treatment for cuts, lacerations, abrasions, sores, and skin irritations. They also make a formula for eyes as well.
13. Sovereign Silver Gel (can be obtained from a health food store is also a good antiseptic and can be used around the eyes safely.
14. Gauze, bandages, vet wrap self-adhesive tape, cotton balls, q-tips, etc. for minor wound tending and dressing
15. Bach’s Rescue Remedy Natural Stress Relieve for Pets is good for relieving stress
16. Sovereign Silver Gel is a good minor wound and antibiotic treatment
17. Quick stop or styptic powder for broken bleeding nails
18. Celox Hemostatic Granules is a good minor to traumatic wound treatment designed to control and stop bleeding. It comes in a package like the one on the left or also in a package with individual packages like those that the one pictured on the right. You can find this on Amazon. It is also good for stopping bleeding for people who are on blood thinners.
19. Nolvadent Oral Liquid Antiseptic is a good general antiseptic and can be obtained from a pet supply store or on-line.
20. Sugar, Preparation H Hemorrhoid Ointment or KY jelly. Both are useful for treating anal prolapse. For treating prolapse with table sugar, put approx. 1 to 2 tablespoons of sugar on a paper place and dip the prolapse in the sugar to coat the protrusion. Within 1-2 minutes, the prolapse should shrink and go back in by itself. If it does not repeat the sugar treatment again. If the prolapse still does not go back in, then try to gently push the prolapse back in with some preparation H or KY jelly. If the prolapse comes out again or will not go back in, you need to get your skunk to a vet immediately. The vet may need to put in a purse stitch suture to keep the intestine in place till the swelling goes down. Keep a close eye on your skunk to make sure that they don’t chew on the protrusion and complicate the issue.
20. Bromelain is a proteolytic enzyme derived from that stem of a pineapple plant. Given between meals it promotes joint comfort and an anti-inflammatory for sore muscles. Taken with a meal it promotes healthy digestion. We mainly use it in skunks for its anti-inflammatory properties for muscle strains or injuries
21. Plastic or wood spoons, thick toothpicks, Popsicle sticks or a plastic-coated baby spoon for helping to dislodge anything stuck in a skunk’s mouth.
22. Emergency phone numbers for vets and knowledgeable skunk owners – you will be surprised how hard it is to find a number you know by heart when there is an emergency.
SKUNK CARE AND HEALTH
Now that you have picked out your veterinarian, you should make an appointment to introduce yourself and your skunk to the vet to be acquainted.
Parasites: All baby skunks have roundworms. Some will have coccidia, which is a single cell intestinal parasite. Just because you do not see worms in your skunks’ stool does not mean they are not there. Failure to worm or have your skunk wormed could be fatal to your skunk, especially a baby skunk – it is a leading cause of death for young skunks. Parasites do not always show up even when tested. Parasites could build up in the skunks system and cause rectal prolapse (where a piece of the intestine could protrude from the rectum), seizures, and death. If you are adopting an older skunk from us, he/she will already have been wormed and we will instruct you on when you should worm him/her again.
If you are unsure about worming your skunk, it may be best to let your veterinarian do it. We recommend two different wormers in paste form that are used for horses. Panacur which kills round worms and tape worms and Strongid which kills only the round worms. Tapeworms come from ingesting a flea. If your skunk has tapeworms, evidenced by their stool or anus looking like it has rice on it. Most commonly skunks get round worms that look like spaghetti. Both are available at Tractor Supply or Rural King and most horse feed stores. If there are other household pets, you may want to worm everyone together. Doseage is .01 ml per pound or the size of a pink pencil eraser. Strongid is one dose for 1 day and then wait 2 weeks and repeat. For Panacur you give a dose once a day for 3 days in a row and then wait 2 weeks and repeat. After that worming every 2-3 months should be fine You can then alternate between the Strongid and Panacur so the worms don't get resistant to the wormer. If you prefer liquid Panacur, it will require a visit to your vet to obtain it. If you prefer to purchase the Panacur C granules online, you will need two of the 1-gram packages. You will dose one package for 3 days in a row, wait 10 days and dose one package for 3 days in a row.
Neuter/Spay: A baby or adult skunk was de-scented by the breeder at about 4 weeks of age. If you adopt one as a rescue, spaying or neutering will already be done. It can be done earlier if your baby is at least 4 lbs. in weight and for a male skunk the testicles should have dropped. If the baby is not yet 4lbs. in weight, you should wait longer. There have been instances when at a year old a skunk is still under 4 lbs. in weight and we have had them neutered/spayed but you need to make sure in this case that your vet knows what they are doing. One person tried to have it done too soon, the vet was inexperienced, and the baby almost died. Pyometra is a life-threatening infection of the uterus that females can develop if not spayed. Females and males can become aggressive when mating season arrives. Please get your baby neutered or spayed as hormones, and their natural instincts, can cause them to act in a way that may not make them a good pet. This is the most preventable cause of people surrendering their skunk for adoption.
Vaccinations: Vaccinations depend on the recommendation of your veterinarian. As with dogs and cats there are risks in vaccinating and the skunk having an allergic reaction to the vaccine so it's advisable to wait at your vet's office for 30 minutes after vaccinating in case any allergic reactions occur. Discuss your concerns with your vet.
Currently there are no vaccines specifically for skunks. Many owners and vets prefer a ferret vaccine for distemper or a puppy vaccine like Nobivac Puppy-DPv. Combination canine or feline vaccines are NOT recommended. Rabvac is the vaccine of choice for rabies.
Titers, a blood test that can identify the presence of antibodies from a previous vaccination amd can be done yearly starting 3 years after repeated vaccinations, however, these tests are sometimes more expensive than giving the actual vaccination. Never vaccinate an unhealthy skunk!
Seizures: A small percentage of baby skunks will develop seizures. Seizures occur more frequently in babies that are fed a low protein diet, or a high carbohydrate diet. You will know your baby is having problems if he or she appears groggy, or falls over. The best thing you can do is remain calm and talk to him or her soothingly. Rub your baby’s feet and make sure they are not cold. A drop of honey, maple or kayro syrup rubbed on the gums using a q-tip often will stop the seizure. That is a DROP, do not give a lot or you can throw them into a sugar coma and even cause death! Once the baby has returned to normal, offer a high protein treat. Make sure you notify your Veterinarian as soon as possible as a seizure is serious. As long as the seizure passes and your baby is acting normal, an immediate vet visit is not required. The number one cause of seizures in pet skunks is improper de-worming. Get your skunk to the vet for diagnosis when possible. DO NOT go on the belief that a seizure is hypoglycemia.
Prolapses: Prolapses in skunks occur because of improper or incomplete de-worming. This can happen a day or so after de-worming a skunk with a huge parasite load or if your skunk has, had extended diarrhea due to worms or illness. The dead and dying parasites cause a blockage that could become a medical emergency especially if the prolapse will not stay in. In this case, your Veterinarian may decide to put a stitch in to hold the intestine in place until it heals. At the first sign of prolapse, take approximately 2 tablespoons of table sugar and place on a paper plate or paper towel. Pick up your skunk, push your skunk’s butt gently down onto the sugar, and make sure the sugar coats the prolapse. Either sit quietly holding your skunk or put them in a small quiet place where you can monitor them for about 5 to 10 minutes and then recheck the prolapse. The sugar should have cause the intestine to shrink and go back inside your skunk by itself. If not repeat the process again. If the sugar doesn’t help the prolapse then you may need to put on a pair of sterile gloves and apply some KY Jelly or Vaseline to the tip of your index finger and gently apply pressure to push the prolapse back in. There is no need to wash off the sugar as sugar has some properties that reduce bacterial contamination and promote wound healing. Hold the prolapse in place for several seconds and release. In our experience, the sugar always causes the intestine to go back in and KY or Vaseline are not needed but it is better to be prepared just in case.
Medicines: There are thousands of medications out there, here are a FEW COMMONLY PRESCRIBED MEDICATIONS NOT to give your skunk as skunks are very sensitive to certain medications. NEVER give an NSAID, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, pain reliever to your skunk. NSAIDS to avoid are Aspirin, Metacam, Meloxicam, Carprofen, Ketoprofen or any other NSAID. Tramadol has been safely used for pain relief for years in skunks. Dosage is the same as a cat.
The Fluoroquinolone family of antibiotic drugs also should NOT be given to skunks. These include: Cipro, Danofloxacin (Advocin, Advocid), Difloxacin (Dicural, Vetequinon), Enrofloxacin (Baytril), Ibafloxacin (Ibafin), Marbofloxacin (Marbocyl, Zenequin), Orbifloxacin (Orbax, Victas), Sarafloxacin (Floxasol, Saraflox, Sarafin) or any other Fluoroquinolone family of antibiotics drugs.
Amoxicillin, Clavamox and SMZ/TMP are safe for use in skunks.
Please consult your veterinarian on medications you give your skunk. If you are not sure, look the medicine up on line to see if it is safe BEFORE you administer it.
Choking: You should monitor your skunk(s) after eating. Most skunks are fast eaters, will fight with other skunks or pets for their food, or can get food stuck in their mouth. If allowed skunks will eat too much, throw-up some of the food and on a rare occasion could aspirate some of the food into their lung. Watch your skunk for signs of pawing at its mouth with their front nails trying to pull an object out, as they may occasionally need your assistance.
If your skunk is prone to choking, chop his/her food into fine pieces. Make sure you do not feed anything thick like peanut butter without watering it down. You should soak any dry food in a 1:1 mixture with fruit juice or water to soften the food. Break sticky foods into small pieces and mix well with other foods. In addition, make sure fresh water is available after meals. Nuts, especially almonds, should be broken into smaller pieces as they have been known to lodge in the top of a skunk’s mouth between their front teeth. If this occurs, scruff your skunk by the back of the neck and use a thick toothpick to help dislodge the nut.
If you’re skunk is choking but still breathing (indicating a possible partial obstruction) try presenting sweetened water, juice, etc. to see if the skunk will drink by itself and possible clear the obstruction. Do not try to force any liquid into their mouths as this could complicate the problem. You can try a drop or two of liquid on the front of its tongue or gums to help induce the skunk to drink if necessary.
If liquid does not work and you can see the obstruction try using a popsicle stick, rubber coated baby spoon, etc. to try to dislodge the item stuck in your skunk’s mouth. Be careful that you do not push the object further into the skunk’s throat and do not put your fingers in the skunk’s mouth.
If you still cannot dislodge the item, try a modified Heimlich maneuver to help get the object out:
1. Drape the skunk across one arm face down with the head in your hand (you may have to hold the skunk by the sides of the head with your fingertips being careful not to hold the neck or throat tightly.
2. Tilt the head down as much as you can and still maintain control.
3. Strike the skunk between the front legs three or four times using sharp blows with the heel of your hand.
4. Support the back and turn the skunk over while keeping the head tilted down.
5. Strike the skunk three or four times with two finger between the front legs.
6. Inspect the mouth to determine if the object is still there; make sure you do not allow the object to slip back down the throat if you have gotten it dislodged.
7. Repeat the procedure as necessary.
If the skunk stops breathing, you may have to perform CPR.
1. Open the mouth and clear any obstructions you can see. Use the modified Heimlich above is necessary.
2. Lay the skunk on its right side.
3. Using two fingers under the left armpit do slow and steady compressions, one every two to three seconds. Do this four or five times.
4. Hold mouth closed and place your mouth over the nose and blow sharply into the nose two to three times.
5. Repeat procedure until breathing and normal pulse returns.
DOSING ACTIVATED CHARCOAL: (remember to use the charcoal in any case when an animal eats something toxic). If you are using a capsule or tablet you will have crush the tablet or take the capsule apart to mix with some tuna fish or other food you skunk will eat. If you are skunk is too sick to eat on its own, you will have to mix the charcoal with some water or Pedialyte and use a syringe to dose your skunk. Make sure you do not force them to take it or you could complicate the matter by aspirating your skunk. Dose as follows:
Under 5 pounds 1/32 teaspoon (about ¼ tablet or capsule)
5-12 pounds 1/16 teaspoon (about ½ tablet or capsule)
12-25 pounds ¼ teaspoon (about one tablet or capsule)
Initial dose should be double the recommended dose for your pet’s weight above and then repeat with the single dose every 4 hours or as needed until you can get your skunk to a vet or the toxicity symptoms pass. It is highly recommended you get your skunk to a vet as soon as possible.
Mulch: Cocoa Mulch sold by Home Depot, Foreman’s Garden supply and other garden supply stores contains a lethal ingredient called “Theobromine” (the same ingredient in chocolate). If your skunk eats or comes in cocoa mulch and starts showing signs of toxicity, treat with activated charcoal as recommended above and get your skunk to a vet as soon as possible.
Wounds: Sometimes skunk will get cuts or other minor wounds. Do not assume that a small wound is nothing to worry about as sometimes they can become infected (especially bite wounds) and require treatment by a vet. This can usually be avoided by properly cleaning and disinfecting the wound. Use an antiseptic cleaner and ointment. Treatment with hydrogen peroxide followed by Vetericyn or Sovereign Silver Gel are excellent for treating wounds. Treat the wound for at least a week and keep an eye on the wound for oozing, puss, redness, warmth to the touch, etc, these are all signs of an infection. If any of these signs develop get your skunk to a vet for treatment and possibly some antibiotics. Do not use the hydrogen peroxide for more than a day because the peroxide breaks down cells and slows the healing process. It is a great cleaner for the initial treatment. If the wound is deep, use a mild soap and water vs. peroxide as peroxide should not be used internally unless it is needed to induce vomiting.
Occasionally skunks will pull a nail or a nail will split or crack and start bleeding. This can produce profuse bleeding and requires care. Celox, styptic power or flour can be used to stop the bleeding. We recommend the Celox as it stops the bleeding quickly. Monitor the nail over the next few days to make sure it is not infected and does not start bleeding again. If the nail breaks back too close to the pad of the foot, veterinary care may be required as soon as possible.
Diet: Diet is a HOT topic in the skunk world! You can ask 10 skunk owners the proper diet and you will get 10 different answers. People are very passionate about their skunks diet. We will cover the basics. Kits need to be fed 4 small meals a day. A skunks diet no matter the age is about 75% veggies, with protein and calcium to make up the remaining 25%. Skunks must have taurine. Foods rich in taurine are fish, eggs, dark chicken meat and dairy. There are commercial skunk pet foods for sale on line, if you chose to feed them please note you still have to feed veggies along with the commercial food. Skunks like to tip their food and water bowls. Using a heavy ceramic bowl works best for their food and water. If you supplement their meals with dog food make sure it is a chicken-based grain free dog food. Skunks are like everything else they LOVE junk food. Remember their stomach is the size of a walnut. One vanilla wafer is like a large piece of cake for us. Please do not love your skunk to death by feeding it whatever it wants, obesity is a HUGE issue for domestic skunks. It is not cute nor funny when your skunk can hardly walk and has fat rolls on its forehead. If your skunk is a picky eater or you are unsure of the nutrients in your diet, there are supplements you can sprinkle over your skunks food.
The following are foods to NOT to be fed to a skunk:
Asparagus, Candy, Cat Food, Chocolate, Fried Foods, Garlic, Grapes, Hops, Iceberg Lettuce, Onions, Raisins, Rhubarb, Salt, Wild Mushrooms. We recommend NOT feeding fruits or anything sugar to your kit for the first 10 months, some kits do not process sugar correctly and it can cause them to have seizures or even death. If feeding avacadoes, watch that there aren't any pieces of the pit on it as it is poisonous to skunks.
Overweight: Skunks do not have a shut off switch to tell them when they are full. Therefore, you need to closely monitor the amount of food and type of food your skunk consumes daily so that they do not become overweight. If you have other pets, do not leave their food within reach of a skunk or they will eat that food as well. Overweight skunks will have bone, internal organ, and general health problems. Monitor your skunk for excessive weight by weighing them periodically (invest in a baby scale), rapid weight gain, and laziness. If your skunk starts gaining too much weight, you may need to either cut down on the amount of their main meal to compensate for snacks you feed in between meals or cut down on the number of snacks they get. Make sure your family is on board with any needed skunk diet as a skunk is not beyond tricking another person into feeling sorry to it to get more snacks.
Proper weight is based on the body length and bone structure for your skunk. Use your and your vet’s best judgment when determining the best weight for your skunk. 8 lbs. on one skunk may be fine but could be overweight on another. A good sense of weight is to feel your skunk’s body just above the hind legs and see if you can still feel and indentation kind of like your waist. Also, feel along their ribs to see if you can feel too much rib indicating an underweight skunk or excess bulk indicating a possibly overweight skunk. Keep a log of your skunk’s weight, as it can be a good indicator of a possible health issue is you see a fluctuation either up or down. Losing weight could indicate a possible illness while unexplained weight gain could be a cardiac issue with the skunk retaining fluid.
Underweight: Underweight skunks can suffer general mal-nutrition, suffer from seizures, etc. Worm your skunk regularly as a worm infestation can cause your skunk to lose weight. Malnourished skunks are more likely to have calcium and other mineral deficiency, vitamin deficiency, low blood sugar levels, and electrolyte imbalance. They can also suffer more from allergies, colds, infections, and other minor injuries due to their poor diet. Provide a balanced diet with sufficient amounts of calcium and other minerals, vitamins, protein and carbohydrates.