Over a decade ago, my parents bought a little cabin in Pennsylvania so they could get out of New York on weekends. They love the undisturbed 50 acres of land the house sits on, they love the trees and they love the wildlife. But every so often, they look out the window and see an animal that could, out of self-defense, hurt their pets (remind me to tell you about the Bear Incident in another post). The other weekend, for example, they saw this young porcupine ambling down the drive.
Their dog Bruna immediately wanted to run over to say hello, but in the past this landed her with a nose full of quills. I’m happy to say that this time she had the good sense this time to stand down and keep her distance. But that left me wondering about other Pawesome readers who live in places with porcupines. Do you know what to do if your dog gets quills in their snout or face?
Porcupines are not usually aggressive, but they will turn and thwack other animals, including your dog, with their tail when they feel threatened. The quills can then get embedded in your pet’s face or body; they’re difficult to extract because they have backward-facing barbs along the shaft.
If only a small number of quills get lodged on your pet, you can try removing them yourself. The first thing to know is that you should never ever cut them; this will make them even more difficult to extract. Pulling them out is painful and will be stressful; the more quickly and efficiently you can remove them, the better for everyone.
Get yourself some needle nose pliers and a friend or family member strong enough to hold your dog down. Remember that your dog is in pain so expect them to exhibit stressful behaviors. You may want to make an improvised muzzle using a strip of cloth. According to Dr. Dolamore, DVM, you then want to use the pliers to grip the quill as close to your dog’s nose as possible and pull — hard — straight out. Don’t twist the quill as you pull! Again, try not to break them as you extract them because that makes removal more difficult. After you’re finished, smear a topical antiseptic/antibiotic cream over the wounds.
I give my dad a lot of credit for having removed these suckers from our dogs’s noses several times over the years. However, not everyone may be as bold as he is. In many cases, or all if you feel squeamish about this sort of thing, you will want to bring your dog directly to a vet to have the quills removed there.