Porcupines and Dogs Don’t Mix
Porcupines and dogs don’t mix. Porcupines are very prevalent in central Texas and their numbers have been reported to be on the rise in the last decade. Their quills are their defense mechanism and they are designed to do a tremendous amount of damage very quickly. They have over 30,000 quills that detach when they feel threatened. It never goes well for dogs who chase or approach porcupines. The quills are sharp and have thousands of tiny barbs which make them painful and difficult to remove easily. Dogs often get quills in their muzzle or mouth, but they can be other places like paws as well.
What to do if your dog is stuck by porcupine quills
Take your dog to a veterinarian immediately if your dog has an encounter with a porcupine. Quills cause a great deal of pain to dogs and they are difficult and painful to remove. Never try to remove the quills yourself. Removing quills without proper pain control or anesthesia is very painful to dogs. The quills can also break, making them harder to remove. Dogs in pain will sometimes bite their owners so always use caution when handling a dog with quills. Dogs will often paw at their muzzle breaking quills themselves, so quick treatment is important. Veterinary treatment involves anesthesia or sedation, as well as pain control to remove the quills. Sometimes antibiotics are needed to treat or prevent infection. Possible complications from the quills include infection, pain, abscesses, migration of the quills, and eye injuries. Rarely quills have been known to migrate internally, which can cause more serious life threatening problems. The quicker a dog receives veterinary treatment the better the outcome in most cases.
Preventing encounters with porcupines
To minimize the chances of your dog getting injured by porcupine quills, it is important to understand the habits of porcupines. Porcupines often nap during the day in burrows, dens, or hollow logs. They are primarily nocturnal, making them active at night. It is best to prevent your dog from going into heavily wooded areas off leash, and especially between dusk and dawn. Porcupines are also more active during the spring and fall in Texas. Your best bet is to be aware of your dog’s surroundings to avoid a porcupine encounter. If your dog has a bad encounter with a porcupine despite your best efforts, we recommend taking them to a veterinarian immediately. Feel free to contact us with any questions you have at 830-438-7800.
Megan Hughes, DVM
Spring Branch Veterinary Hospital