Dogs Seem to Love Porcupines, Unfortunately for Them!

Porcupines are small slow-moving herbivorous critters, that are largely nocturnal. They are most likely to be investigating and eating at dusk and throughout the night. They have terrible vision, but a great sense of smell and protect themselves from being injured by predators (i.e. your dog), with the use of long thin sharp quills that have small unidirectional barbs.

When your dog attacks a porcupine, he will be stabbed numerous times with these quills, which then embed themselves in the skin of your dog. The quills often embed in the investigatory parts of your dog’s body, such as the nose and front paws. They also attack elements of their body, such as the head, face, tongue, and oral cavity. A dog has to touch a porcupine to get stabbed by quills. Contrary to popular belief, porcupines do not “shoot” quills into their victim.

What should you do if your dog gets quilled? The short answer is: take him to your veterinarian. Most veterinarians have substantial experience removing porcupine quills from dogs. It is done with deep sedation or anesthesia to make the procedure less painful, less stressful more effective and efficient. Quills are painful and can be difficult to remove with an awake patient. The quills are more likely to break off if your dog is moving at all during quill removal. Broken quills are even more difficult to remove and therefore, are more likely to migrate inward, where they can affect other body systems.

I have had clients try to be helpful by cutting off the ends of the quills before coming in with their dog. Please don’t do this, it serves no benefit. It makes the process more difficult. Cut quills are not as strong as intact ones and are, therefore, more likely to slide through our surgical instruments, compared to intact ones.

In summary, dogs are investigatory and can be predatorial. They have the potential to come into contact with porcupines and get quilled. If your dog does get quilled, take him to your veterinarian in a timely fashion to have the quills removed in a comfortable safe, efficient and effective manner.

Written by Dr. Rob Doucette, DVM


The Importance of Microchipping Your Pet

Pets can get lost which can be a traumatic and possibly tragic event.  It’s important to have a collar and ID tag, but these are not foolproof.  Collars can break or fall off leaving your pet unidentifiable. This can be prevented with the use of a microchip. As noted in the Dartmouth Tribune in April 2017: A pet is lost every seven seconds One in three pets will go missing in their lifetime Only 2 percent of lost cats and 17 percent of lost dogs with ID return home When a pet gets lost, they are 20 times more likely to make their way back home when they have a microchip A microchip is a small chip that is encoded with a unique identification number.  It is no bigger than a grain of rice and implanted just under the surface of your pet’s skin.  The process is similar to receiving a vaccination through a needle and is virtually painless to pets.  Once implanted, the microchip remains between the shoulder blades just beneath the skin for the rest of the animal’s lifetime, becoming a permanent form of identification. Since it’s under your pets’ skin it can’t break or fall off like a collar or tag. The chip is powered by a scanner which sends a signal to the chip and receives the identification number stored on it.  A vet or shelter can use the scanner to read your pet’s chip.  With the identification number, your pet’s information is a phone call away. When your pet is microchipped, it is linked to a database with your contact info.  It is essential that you register the microchip and ensure your contact information is kept up to date.  If you move or change phone numbers be sure to update your information.  Microchips are reliable and use nationwide registries, but they depend on the information you provide. If you want to improve your chances of getting your pet back home quickly and safely microchipping is highly recommended.   Written by Tracy LeFler, Site Coordinator Edited by Janis Wall, RVT

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Last updated: September 15, 2021

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