Spring is in the air and brings out all sorts of critters, porcupines among them. Dogs and porcupines don’t mix well as a simple Google image search will illustrate, painfully so I may add. For dog owners, PREVENTION is absolutely essential, and knowing basic porcupine behavior will help doing that.
Porcupines are most active around dawn and dusk, and at nighttime, particularly in the spring and fall. Having your dog running free, with or without you during these times carries the greatest risk of an encounter. Your dog will smell (and chase after) the porcupine long before you see it. Disturbed porcupines may attempt to climb a tree, but don’t have to as they are fully capable of defending themselves. When attacked, they raise their quills and lash their tail, usually embedding hundreds of barbed quills in the dog’s face, nose and mouth, among other places. Each porcupine carries about 30,000 quills, at various lengths and diameters.
Quills do more than damage the area where they enter the body. Look at the microscopic image of their barbed tips: Quills only move forward, deeper into the tissue and can migrate from where they enter to any place in the body, causing pain and infection and sometimes fatal injuries to internal organs long after the initial encounter.
You get the point of preventing a dog-porcupine encounter at all cost. This should work well in an ideal world, but humans are humans and dogs are dogs. You also need a solid backup plan in place for the aftermath of an encounter should it ever occur.
TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE. Quilled dogs not only suffer tremendously, but each passing minute will drive the quills deeper and deeper, causing some to break off and become buried, making them essentially irretrievable. Your dog’s invariable thrashing and pawing at the quills will also make matters worse very quickly. Remembering the porcupine’s peak activity periods you realize that many vet offices are closed during these hours; hence the need for a solid backup plan.
First, contact your veterinarian NOW and find a place for quill removal, both during business hours and after hours or weekends. Know where these places are and keep their phone numbers with you or in your car.
NEVER attempt to pull quills out yourself, unless there are only a few. Instead, try to keep your dog from pawing at its face (this is where most receive the majority of their quills). Wrapping your dog’s body in a blanket with the head sticking out will do. A second person will be of invaluable help. Start driving immediately but safely to your family vet or the emergency veterinary hospital you identified previously. Call from the road and communicate to the veterinarian the dog’s breed, age and weight, any health issues etc., and your estimated time of arrival.
The above will minimize the time between injury and surgery, which is the only real help you can provide to your dog quilled by a porcupine. Most dogs will recover well with adequate care. Remember that the time to full recovery of your dog (and wallet!) depends on number and location of quills your dog received and the length of time between injury and treatment.