Pets’ encounters with skunks are never very nice for the pets or theirowners. And as intolerable as a thorough skunk spraying can be, a Universityof Georgia veterinarian says that may not be the worst of it.”Skunks account for many rabies cases in Georgia,” said JimStrickland, an Extension Serviceveterinarian with the UGA College ofAgricultural and Environmental Sciences.Of the 597 Georgia rabies cases reported in 1995 and 1996, the GeorgiaDivision of Public Health reports that 60 cases, or 10 percent, were skunks.That’s a distant second to raccoons (415) in the number of cases reported.Strickland said outdoor pets, especially dogs, often tangle with skunks.”Skunks appear to be fairly easy prey,” he said.The appearance is deceiving. “They have a unique way of defending themselves,”he said. “But it surely is effective.”Skunks have glands that manufacture a substance loaded with thiols,the compounds responsible for the odors that come from rotting flesh andfecal matter. Their potent spray is literally the essence of putrification.It’s an eye-watering, breathtaking concoction that seems to defy any attemptto get rid of it.People with skunk-sprayed pets have tried every kind of soap and lotsof home remedies. None works very well, Strickland said. Tomato juice,a favorite, is often better at turning a pet pink than making it not stink.But there’s good news.Strickland said Lisle, Ill., chemist Paul Krebaum’s formula may be thebest hope yet for deskunking a putrid pet.Mix 1 quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, one-fourth cup of bakingsoda and 1 teaspoon of liquid dish detergent. Douse the pet with the solutionimmediately, since the chemical reaction lasts only a short time. Rinsethe pet well with water. Don’t let the solution soak for more than a fewminutes.The solution will treat a small dog. For larger dogs, you may need todouble or triple the ingredients.The solution, which gives off oxygen that then changes the skunk-spraychemicals into odorless compounds, can’t be stored. So just mix it anduse it as needed.”This solution may enable you to stand getting close enough to yourpet to see if it has any bite wounds,” Strickland said. “If it does, besure you have your veterinarian check it out. Bite wounds are usually highlycontaminated and predisposed to abscesses.”The threat of rabies from infected skunks is by far the more seriousproblem, he said. And a thoroughly sprayed dog may be a good sign thatthe skunk it encountered was normal.Animals infected with rabies often don’t behave normally, he said. Sothey might not use their traditional defense mechanism.Rabid skunks can be in a stage in which they have no symptoms, though.So rabies should be a concern anytime a pet mixes it up with a skunk.If your pet has been bitten and hasn’t been vaccinated for rabies, mostveterinarians now recommend having it vaccinated immediately.”If we don’t have a positive diagnosis of rabies (in the animal thatbit the pet), we don’t usually recommend euthanasia,” Strickland said.Not having to put a pet to sleep after a suspicious bite doesn’t meanthe worry is over. You can’t be perfectly sure the pet won’t develop rabiesuntil the six-month incubation period is over.”There’s only one way to be certain you don’t have to worry about yourpet getting rabies from a skunk or any other wild animal,” Strickland said.”Have your dog or cat vaccinated every year by a licensed veterinarian.”Georgia law requires all dogs and cats to have rabies shots. A three-yearvaccine is available, he said. But since Georgia has a constant presenceof rabies, he recommends sticking with annual vaccinations.