Porcupine vs. Dog! – How to Deal With Your Dog’s Porcupine Encounter

November 15, 2009  
Filed under Dog Health Tips

If you live in a wooded area, chances are that your dog may encounter a porcupine. Porcupines are slow, passive creatures, but they have one of the most effective defensive skills of any animal! A porcupine’s body is covered with special quills, which are designed to penetrate the skin of any attacking predator. The quills are actually modified hairs, which are coated with thick plates of keratin. Contrary to popular belief, a porcupine cannot ‘shoot’ their quills. Rather, the quills become embedded in the skin by direct contact.

If your dog has recently encountered a porcupine, properly removing the quills is absolutely essential in order to prevent complications. Porcupine quills gradually work their way into your dog’s body after expanding by contact with body heat. Quills in the face, neck and chest are the most dangerous. The following information will help you to understand the proper procedure for caring for your dog after a porcupine encounter.


If your dog only has a few manageable quills, you can most likely remove these without taking your dog to the veterinarian. However, if your dog has severely embedded quills, or an extremely large quantity of quills, you want to take your dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible. It is feasible for you to remove some of the quills on your own, as long as you have the proper tools.


Dogs that have encountered a porcupine are usually in a lot of pain. Even if your dog is well-mannered, it’s important to remember that there is a possibility that your dog will try to bite you when you remove the quills. Try to enlist the help of at least two other people before attempting to remove the quills from your dog. In addition to this, you will need to gather these tools: sturdy needle-nose pliers, scissors, white vinegar, paper towels and antibacterial ointment.


Pour the vinegar over the area where the quills are embedded, since this will help to slightly loosen the skin around the quill. After that, snip the end of the quill off with the scissors. This allows some of the air to escape from the quill, and makes the quill slightly easier to remove. Grasp the quill with the pliers, as close to your dog’s skin as possible. Using a quick and sharp motion, yank the quill out of your dog’s skin while still maintaining pressure on the pliers. Repeat this procedure until all of the quills are removed from your dog.


Once you have removed all visible quills from your dog, you have two options. You may opt to take your dog to the vet, in order to check for any other embedded quills that may cause harm to your dog. If you believe that you have removed all of the quills from your dog, you can begin treating the afflicted areas with antibacterial ointment in order to prevent infection.

Has your dog ever had a run-in with a porcupine?  Tell us about it.  What happened?  How was the outcome?

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14 Responses to “Porcupine vs. Dog! – How to Deal With Your Dog’s Porcupine Encounter”
  1. Kate says:

    My 5 year old Ridgeback has had two run-ins with porcupine’s. Fortunately in both cases I was able to remove the quills fairly easily with my fingers. My mother’s dog was not as lucky as the quills had embedded deeply into her tongue.

    And just a note that my vet told me… It’s extremely important to remove the entire quill. Even if a small piece of quill remains in the dogs skin it can work it’s way into other organs like the heart and cause serious complications… This is even if the quills entered nowhere near the heart.

  2. Dog Lover says:

    I just wanted to say that no matter what you should take your dog to the vet. Better to be safe than sorry. You dont want your dog walkin around with an infected face. Come on.

  3. Doug says:

    That’s fine if you can afford the $1000 or more vet bill. Otherwise, better to remove them yourself than have to put down the dog. After a light incident that cost me $600, I’ll be doing it myself next time. Thanks for the information on this site.

  4. admin says:

    Yes I agree with Doug, if it’s not too serious remove the quills yourself and you will save a costly vet bill. I’ve done it two times before without any issues (no infection etc). If quills are near the eyes, inside the mouth or are have broken off, then you will probably have not choice but go to the vet. If you remove them yourself and are still worried, take your dog to the vet just for peace of mind. This trip will only cost you $75 as opposed to $600+ 😉

  5. holly3barrel says:

    My mom’s dog got into a porcupine and took the quills out herself. The ones that didn’t come out worked themselves out of the dog on their own just like a sliver would for us…. I’m sure that is what would happen to a stray/coyote/wolf/fox etc… They would come out on their own. Dogs have their own “defenses” just like everything else.

  6. Omegaphi says:

    I live in the boonies here in the great white north and have had dogs my entire life. I remember watching my mom and my grandfather take quils out of our dogs mouth. Tonight it happened to me in the middle of the woods with no light source other than my iPhone. Best thing to do is train a happy healthy dog so they stay still my mine did while you pull the things out. Faster the better for the dog but it’s realy nothing to worry about. Don’t let the blood faze you get it done and over with. Keep your disposition and after act like nothing happened for the dogs sakes. Animals can sense fear and a change in behavior like crying or whatever you do when your in panic not good. Once you get them out, inspect the inside of the mouth, you sometimes and up with tiny bits just the end those need to be tacked care of with haste. You find these my petting the area in a circular motion just like my grandfather did. You feel a pointy end get to work… In all despite the deep freeze and the lack of light my dog walked away bloody but like nothing happened. Keep in mind the vet will do the same thing your doing l8ter. I think
    my dog appreciated getting it done snuggled between my legs in the woods where she’s happy. I think
    her disposition after was proof enough.

  7. j says:

    my 5 year old catahoula mix sniffed one last fall, and got nailed in the mouth/nose area… probably about 25 quills. over the course of 4 hours i pulled them all out myself w/ pliers or tweezers. the quills hurt, as does removal, but the quills themselves actually have a numbing quality to them after awhile. one quill in his lower lip broke off during an attempted removal, so, being concerned i had a vet look at it. he told me to just let it alone and in about a month it would either pus and pop out like a pimple, or just work itself down, and out the bottom of his chin. sure enough, a month later, it started poking out the bottom of his chin and i pulled it out. no problems with infection. its important to take you dog to the vet if the quills are anywhere on the torso of your dog, because any missed/broken quills WILL work their way inwards and potentially into internal organs.

  8. Rachelle says:

    My dog just had a run-in with a porcupine. I have never encountered this before, he was pretty upset, there were some inside his mouth, and I didn’t have anyone around to help me, so I took him to the vet. There’s no way I would have been able to do it myself. I’m amazed at some of the numbers everyone else is mentioning; my vet charged $189, that included anesthesia, an antibiotic, and a rabies booster.
    In the future if my husband were around to help I suppose I might try to take them out myself. However I think I’ll be keeping him on the leash from now on!

  9. Jennifer says:

    Thanks for this article- I actually only heard about the possibility of a porcupine run in tonight, and it terrified me for my own dogs. But I think this story may have been a little more severe than most cases, after reading this article and responses. My dad and uncles went hunting, and his dog chases down a porcupine. But when he bites it in the rear, and the porcupine released the quills, I guess out of anger and pain the dog kept biting even more aggressively and fighting the thing. It took him a while to let go, and the guys started to try to pull a few out, but when they looked in his mouth they realized the poor thing had quills all the back to the soft pallet in the back of his mouth. They drove over an hour to find a vet, the dog was put to sleep, and several hours later the vet released him, announcing she pulled over 200 quills out of it’s mouth. Hearing about this scared the “quills” outs me.

  10. Chastity says:

    What are the side affects after.
    My puppies found a dead porcupine and got only 9 quills between the two of them, but I am still concerned it will make them sick.

  11. Doyle Swearingen says:

    It is 6:00 pm Friday,April 22,2011…Good Friday…Just got back from the Coast Range Mtns. in Oregon(ORYGUN)and my Jack Russell is not so sure if there is anything Good about porcupines on Friday!! Her first,and dear…I hope last. Everything you said I did out in the field.She wanted to bite..oh she wanted to! But she didn’t. I had “hand sanitizer” in the truck, as soon as I pulled the quills,I rubbed the sanitizer on,in and around…That had to sting! Alcohol based cleaner!!Wow! Now I’ll see!? Your website helped,I see I did everything that needed to be done.Thank you for the conformation.

  12. Jupiter says:

    I go out to Medina Lake (San Antonio area) just about every weekend- my dog has gotten into it with porkies 6 or 7 times now (no, all dogs out there that I have known DO NOT learn their lesson)First time it happened, I freaked out and rushed her to the emergency vet about an hour and a half drive, and about $250. Now I pull them myself, very difficult on my pit/catahoula bone-head baby. I came here to try and see if there were tips to train her not to go after them in the first place, apparently not- Kahlua and her buddies are just gonna have to be “grounded” until we get rain again and those rascaly porcupines move further away from the house. (most recently they busted the doggie door blocker while we were down swimming at the lake- last weekend). Golly it sucks, she used to have so much fun running the property :o(

  13. Cwisneski says:

    My dogs (yes, 2 of them) were recently quilled. The one only had a few visible quills. It wasn’t until the vet examined her that she found quills inside the roof of her mouth and (after a scope) inside her neck/esophogus area. The other dog was much, much worse! She took a huge bite of quills – neck, muzzle, tongue, roof, throat. The vet scoped and found quills in her stomach even! Both dogs needed to be put out and scoped – about 15 minutes for the first dog and about 2 hours for the other. $1772 vet bill and piece of mind. However, the vet cannot get all of the quills all of the time, especially if the dog has been pawing and jawing. I’ve had to pull out remnants.

  14. Kim says:

    Our 3 year old pup encountered the beast and got over 100 quills in her chest and left leg. After removing the quills we realized there were more embedded in her chest by feeling all of them under her skin. We brought her to the vet the next morning and they operated ($1,000) to remove over 15 more embedded under her skin. While we believed the ordeal was over, 3 days later her breathing starting to be effected. For over a week the vet continued to tap her chest to remove air that was escaping from her lungs believed to be the result of quills migrating through her body. For a few days after surgery quills were coming out all over her body. Unfortunately without extensive testing and more surgery to determine how many quills and what damage has been done, her long term prognosis is not good. My concern is the pain she may be in from the penetrating quills. We need to make a decision for her benefit soon. Too young and will never walk my dogs far from the house again late at night. Nasty critters!

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