How to Safely Remove Porcupine Quills From a Dog


I’ve had to remove porcupine quills from my dogs and it’s not a pleasant experience. It’s not unusual to see porcupines, raccoons, skunks, foxes, and even bears where I live.  However, I have discovered a few tricks to keep them away from my house.

In this article, I’m going to help you decide when it’s okay to pull quills out yourself, how to recognize when a professional is needed, and offer tips on how to keep porcupines and other wildlife away from your house.

  1. The DIY Quill Project – Can I Remove Porcupine Quills From My Dog?

One Quill, Two Quill, Three Quill…Four?

If you are not able to get to a veterinarian right away, and you know you can safely pull quills from your dog, go ahead and do it. That, of course, is assuming there are only a few quills (and by “a few”, I mean 50 or less).

YOU WILL NEED:

  • Pliers
  • Puncture-proof container to put the quills in
  • A second person nearby to sit behind the dog, away from the porcupine quills, ready to steady the dog.
Courtesy of Pixabay

Remain calm and reassuring.

My dogs become incredibly docile when stuck with quills because they just want them out as fast as possible. Your dog, however, could react differently.

 

The risks associated with pulling quills from your dog(s) include:

  • getting stuck with quills yourself.
  • snapping the quills off and accidentally leaving pieces in the dog.
  • driving the quills deeper into the dog, which could puncture organs.

TECHNIQUE IS EVERYTHING!

Use the pliers to grasp one quill at a time. Grasp as close to the entry point of the quill as possible and be prepared to give one, quick, yank.

Don’t twist your arm or hand, and don’t pull the quill at an angle. Don’t cut the tips of the quills off before pulling.  It’s a myth that quills will “release” once the tips are clipped off. Quills are made of a tough keratin (protein) that don’t open or soften. Clipping the quills only makes them harder to grasp.

  1. HOW TO KNOW WHEN TO STOP

When the quills are embedded close to the eyes, up the nose, or deeply in the throat, get a veterinarian to assist.  Your dog will need a sedative in order to properly remove these quills. You only have one chance and if your dog moves suddenly, you could accidentally pierce his eye or shove the quill deeper inside.

Complications to Watch For Include:

Once the quills have been removed, the following medical complications are possible.

  • Abscess
  • Infection
  • Internal quills could migrate into the joints
  • Internal quills could migrate to the organs

WHEN A VETERINARIAN DOES THE JOB, he/she will likely send you home with an antimicrobial to prevent infection.

MY DOGS COULD HAVE DIED!

I want to tell you something that really scared me.  A few years ago, my dogs caught a scent and bolted into the woods.  Despite my calls, the dogs vanished and were gone the night.  I had a restless night worrying about them.  

The next morning, I opened the door to see both dogs covered from head to tail with quills.

They were in agony. I couldn’t see their eyes and I could tell their mouths were essentially pinned shut.  All I could do was guide the dogs with my voice to the car. I opened the back door and – somehow – those poor dogs managed to crawl in.

A HARD LESSON FOR ME TO LEARN

The quills were deeply embedded in their chests, abdomen, and throat. As a result, both dogs required surgery. Otherwise, the veterinarian couldn’t be sure that the organs were not damaged.

To this day, I feel awful about it.  My dogs both have wireless collars that keep them from wandering. I’m much more careful now because I don’t want them to get hurt.  Porcupines are just one of the many dangers lurking in the woods.

  1. TIPS FOR KEEPING PORCUPINES AWAY FROM YOUR HOUSE

Porcupines are nocturnal creatures (rodents, actually) that love to nibble on trees. You might see them during the day, but they mostly come out at twilight or evening

  • Hot Sauce/ Capsaicin: If you have seen porcupines in the yard, or noticed bites taken out of your trees/shrubs, try applying hot sauce.  Make sure the main ingredient is capsaicin.
  • You could build a fence around your property, although this could be a fairly expensive option.
  • Non-toxic deterrents are available at local hardware and department stores.
  • Sensor lights
  • Live-trap. Call your local animal control office for advice, assistance.

Of course, you know not to leave actual poison around the house! I admit that the suggestions above are not guaranteed, but it’s better than nothing. The good news is that porcupines are not persistent. If you can find a way to deter them, or remove them by live-trapping, it’s unlikely they will come back anytime soon. So, unless you have a large population of porcupines in your area, there’s a good chance you won’t have too many visits.

 

Veterinary Care

A veterinarian should be consulted as soon as possible.  The more your dog moves, and the longer the quills stay in their skin, the more likely it is for the quills to break and migrate within the body.

  • A vet will anesthetize your dog and remove the quills.

The anesthetic decreases the pain and stress for your dog, allowing the vet to remove the quills more easily without them breaking. Each quill can be closely looked at to ensure the whole quill has been removed – the end should taper into a point. A dog who is not sedated will typically not be able to sit still due to the pain making removing the quills properly near impossible.  

  • Often easily treated but can occasionally cause fatal or long-term problems.

Usually, the quills can be removed and the dog will recover without any further issues. However, certain location of the quills e.g. in the eye or in the joints as well as broken quills migrating through the body into vital organs can prove to be fatal.

THE REALITY IS…

I live in a small town with limited veterinary resources.  There’s always a doctor on call, but they reserve their practice for severe, life-threatening conditions.  Unless your dog has a ridiculous amount of quills (like mine did), it’s fine to pull them out yourself using the methods described above. Just remember to be careful. 

REMEMBER:

  • Grasp the quill as close to the entry-point as possible.
  • Use a firm tool like pliers. The barbed nature of the quill will make it too difficult to pull out with your fingers.
  • Gently look inside your dog’s mouth to see if any quills are embedded inside. 
  • Don’t try to pull embedded quills from your dog’s mouth. He/she will need to be sedated to avoid accidental biting.

If you are lucky enough to live in an area with good clinical resources, and you don’t feel confident taking them out yourself, by all means contact the vet.

EMERGENCY CARE EXPENSE

It cost me $800 Canadian dollars to have the quills surgically removed from my dogs.  Luckily, it was during regular business hours and the added $200 flat-fee wasn’t applied. 

Quills in dogs are, unfortunately, costly both in terms of money and your dog’s health. Don’t think for a minute that your dog has “learned his lesson” after being stuck with quills. The best thing you can do is try to deter or prevent porcupines, and other wildlife, from wandering onto your property. 

Share this with all of your dog-loving friends because they need to know how to protect and treat their furry friends.

 

 

 

 

LA Theriault
Lisa is dedicated to writing a high-quality blog based on professionally researched data. Her time is spent writing and researching balanced with enjoying family life with her husband and two dogs.

Lisa's writing skills emerged at an early age. Over time, her fiction has been published in various literary magazines. She has also written for non-fiction journals internationally.

Dogs are Lisa's passion, and blogging is the means to direct her energy towards their well-being on a global scale.