As a vet, it was one of the worst cases I’d seen of porcupine quill removal gone wrong. The poor dog had abscesses all over its chest, muzzle and even his tongue. The skin was more sensitive where the pus-filled cavities lay just under the surface, and warmer to the touch. His body was trying to fight off the little pockets of infection, but it was obvious the dog was in pain.
His owners had tried to remove all the quills with pliers at home after the boxer had chased the porcupine down and tried to catch it. All he got was a face full of quills. The family had calmed the dog down, and attempted to pull each quill out one by one, figuring the remaining barbs would work their way out. Unfortunately, they didn’t know the barbs are shaped in such a way that they usually work their way inward, forming abscesses and sometimes working their way in so deeply they penetrate organs. Yes, dogs are tough, but quills that keep working their way inward into the body are painful, no matter how tough you are.
The owners had thought they had a deer problem, and had no idea they needed porcupine removal. They noticed the bark was pulled away from the bottom of the trunks of their trees, and many plants in their beautiful garden were eaten. They had found portions of the wooden handles of their tools gnawed away, teeth marks in one of the support beams on their children’s playhouse, and holes in one of the tires of the four-wheeler. It never occurred to them that these were all caused by the same animal, the porcupine. Porcupines love to chew on wood, and anything salty. The four-wheeler’s tires had salt from the roadways salted after a snow storm and attracted the spiny animal. Once their dog came yelping to the back door, impaled with over 200 quills around his mouth and chest, though, they finally figured out they had a porcupine problem.
They’d held the dog down, gotten out a pair of pliers, and started tugging. Not a pleasant experience for the poor pet. Porcupine quills are like feather shafts, and can splinter if handled incorrectly. And, when some of the quills broke, the barbs just started working their way in deeper, eventually causing a great deal more pain and infection.
I had to put the dog under anesthesia, just to get him to relax the muscles enough for me to pull each quill out. We scheduled an ultrasound and later surgery to remove the quills that had moved in deeper. Fortunately, the quills hadn’t gone in so deep as to touch any organs.
I recommended the family not attempt porcupine removal themselves, as it might end up as disastrous as removing the quills themselves. The best way to ensure the job is done right is to call a professional.