A Sticky Situation: When Your Dog Tangles With a Porcupine

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Tony Maples Photography


No matter what you call them: “Quill pig,” “Prickle Pig,” or, more commonly, a porcupine, these Texas rodents pose a real danger to your favorite four-legged family members. Porcupines are native to Texas and weigh up to 30 pounds – making them the second-largest rodent species in North America (after beavers). Their quills are their defense and, man alive, do they work!

Prickly Little Salt Fiends


Photo: Flickr/Bill Bumgarner

While porcupines aren’t aggressive, they are attracted to humans. Porcupines love salt so, anything salty, like our perspiration (i.e. backpack straps that have absorbed our sweat), are a delicacy for them. This brings them closer to humans from time to time. Also, dogs tend to be curious, so your family pet might run off into the woods and encounter the prickliest of all rodents.

Myth: They Don’t Shoot Their Quills.


Photo: Flickr/Quinn Dombrowski

While porcupines don’t actually “shoot” out their quills, something (or somebody) has to first make contact with the rodent before its barbed hairs can loosen from their follicles and spear the opposing party. Most often, the victim in this violent exchange is a dog.

No Time For a DIY

Dog vs. Porcupine

Photo: Flickr/Uther Pendragon

When this happens, there’s only one thing to do: Get to your vet’s office immediately. You see, porcupine quills have very tiny, one-way barbs along the shaft of the quill. This makes it easy for quills to keep moving in the exact opposite direction that you want them to – inward!

Quills may puncture through skin and muscle to enter body cavities, puncturing organs, and causing infection and abscesses. Your veterinarian is best-equipped to remove quills. Quill removal is painful and quills may break off inside your pet. Removing quills under anesthesia reduces traumatic removal/quill breakage and allows for more thorough checking of the areas affected.

Thinking that you can save a buck and remove the quills yourself? Think again: Pulling quills out is risky – quills break off easily, and “tenting” of the skin while pulling out quills may bury nearby quills, making them almost impossible to remove. This is a job best left to the professionals and a hearty dose of anesthesia for your poor pup.