Did you know?
Ever gotten poked by a porcupine quill? Maybe, especially if you have an overly curious family pet who likes to get up close and personal with the prickly beasts. Actually, porcupines are quite timid and don’t release their quills unless cornered or attacked. Then they swing their quill covered tail until it finds its mark right in the face of your dog or cat. Now you have a choice to make, do you try to remove the quills yourself at home or take the animal to your family vet or veterinary emergency room? Our suggestion, head for the vet’s office.

Let me tell you why.
When I was a kid, every summer we could count on our dog “Christmas” getting too friendly with a porcupine. One June he got quills in his snoot so many times that when it happened he headed straight for the truck and looked at us as if to say “ok, I know the drill, let’s go see Dr. Sue”, our neighbor and family veterinarian. Just once my Dad tried extracting the quills from the soft flesh of the dogs muzzle and realized quickly just how painful that procedure must be for poor “Christmas”. Dad decided that paying the vet bill was much better than taking the chance of “Christmas” reacting in pain and biting him or my Mom.

The possibility of getting bit by your animal isn’t the only reason to take “Lucky” to the vet to have the porcupine quills removed. Porcupine quills have little microscopic scales on the end that point in the opposite direction. When a quill gets embedded in your animal’s skin the scales make the quill very painful to pull out. Those scales are also what can cause the quill to burrow into the flesh and migrate to other areas of the body. Though rare, Veterinarians have reported quills being found in the lower spine, elbow, eye, or abdomen weeks or months after the animal has had quills removed from its face or legs. If a quill migrates to the chest there is a possibility of needing surgical removal so it doesn’t wreck havoc on the heart or lungs.

It is best to get the quills removed as soon as possible. On the way to the vet try to keep your dog from rubbing his face with his paws which can cause the quills to break off under the skin or can transfer the quills to his legs and paws. To remove the quills “Lucky” will be placed under general anesthesia and the veterinarian will painstakingly remove each individual quill. Special attention has to be paid to the inside of the mouth as the quills can be far back in the throat or be easily hidden in the soft flesh of the gums.

After recovering from anesthesia “Lucky” will be sent home with pain medicine and 7-10 days worth of antibiotics to decrease the possibility of infection. It is virtually impossible to find and remove every single quill. You’ll need to examine your pet for a few days after the porcupine encounter to look for signs of infection or a forming abscess (swelling, redness, puss, oozing). If you notice any of these signs bring your pet back to the vet for follow-up care. You might find a quill that has worked its way to the surface and is easily removed with tweezers weeks later.

The moral of the story…”Lucky” shouldn’t poke his nose where it doesn’t belong or it’s gonna get poked.