Porcupine quills can be very dangerous. If they break off, are missed, or are left in the pet, the quills can migrate through the body. We have seen a dog die six weeks after encountering a porcupine as a result of quill migration. We have seen a dog that got quills in his face have one appear in his foot months later. So the first rule is: Don’t take porcupine quills lightly.
If you are absolutely sure that there are only one or two in the nose or lips you can do the following.
- Judge the dog’s state of distress. This is a painful and frightening situation. Even the loveliest family pet will bite under these circumstances so only proceed to number two if you are absolutely sure you won’t be bitten.
- Try and numb the area around it with an ice cube for a minute
- Grasp the quill right at the level of the skin with pliers and pull quickly and firmly. The quills are barbed and it will hurt to remove it. There will be blood so staunch it with tissue or gauze.
- Do not cut the quill or moisten it. It is more likely to break off when it is pulled.
More often there are hundreds of quills in the face, mouth, chest and paws. The only thing that can be done in this case is seek immediate veterinary assistance. The dog will need to be put under anesthetic and all the quills pulled and a thorough exam done to be sure none are missed. Be very careful handling the dog because the quills are sharp, the dog will be in pain and frightened and may try to bite. Often there is a lot of blood. The best course of action is to stay calm and call ahead to the nearest veterinarian.
Dogs do not learn about porcupines. One summer in country practice Dr. Eaglesome saw the same dog once a week for twelve weeks to take quills out. So if you have a resident porcupine at the cottage you may consider having it relocated.