Porcupines quills are covered in something that would look like tiny fish scales, they are scaled in such away they will not fall out on their own, but rather would work their way deeper into the animal stuck with the quill. Often the quill hits bone and becomes a painful problem, when only soft tissue is encountered, the quill sometimes will work its way through the dog and out the other side. When this occurs it will be months later that a bump is felt on the dog where the quill is trying to come out.
photo source - this dogs second encounter with a porcupine!
The scales make removing the quill somewhat tricky, and more painful. Some folks will suggest cutting the quill short, allowing the part in the dog to continue to pass through the dog, however this is not the best option, and not worth the risks. In fact unless only a tiny portion is remaining in the dog, it is always best to remove the quill.
If the dog has only a few quills and they are easily visible you can remove the quills yourself. Have a friend hold the dog for safety purposes, ideally the dogs eyes should be covered and it should be kept calm. One can use needled nosed pliers to grab the quills directly and pull them out being careful to pull at the same angle as the quill. Grip the quill as close to the skin as possible to prevent it breaking off.
When there are several quills stuck close together you may try pulling more than one out at once.
Do not continue for long periods of time, rather after removing several quills allow the dog to take a break, give him, or her, some exercise before starting again.
In severe cases, as when the dog has more than 40 quills, they are in the dogs mouth, or near its eye, the dog should be taken to a veterinarian who can sedate (or anesthetize) the dog while the quills are removed.
After the quills are removed the area should be washed in an antibacterial soap and checked daily to see if there are any signs of quills that may have been missed.
You may want to note that porcupine quills are quite clean, the animals have a sort of antibiotic that coats their quills, this is because they, themselves, are often poked, as such while infection can occur it is less common with quills than from a bacteria infested mouth – a bite.
photo source – this dog is lucky it only has a few quills in its lower jaw and chin, the owner should be able to remove these without a veterinarians help.
Points of Interest
Porcupines cannot “shoot” quills, a dog must physically make contact in order to become stuck. A wise owner would train the dog for simple commands such as “leave it” before going for a walk in the woods where porcupines are present. Dogs with high prey instincts should be kept on leash.
Cats are more cautions and less likely to get poked. Porcupines use similar body language as cats when saying “Stay Back”. Cats are more likely to get a porcupine quill stuck into them if it is one that came out of the porcupine and was stuck into a tree that the cat likes to climb. Cats who have quills in them that cannot be easily removed should be taken to the veterinarian.
Hedgehogs do not have the same kind of quills as porcupines.
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