Porcupines and dogs: a prickly pattern of conflict
I have a friend whose dog is addicted to porcupines. He lives in upstate New York and his Midgie is just wild about the rural prey species at her disposal. Porcs are her favorite. They put up a good rousing fight—hissing, quilling and generally making a big fuss over the whole interaction, all while standing their ground (they waddle ploddingly and can’t exactly make a run for it even if they wanted to).
It seems that no self-respecting dog with a predatory complex can resist these porcupine charms. In case you’re wondering, a predatory complex is defined by an animal’s extreme devotion to attacking and killing things—usually way beyond any reasonable need and in spite of its inherent dangers. In addition to making a nuisance of themselves (especially when terrorizing neighborhood cats), these dogs can get into a lot of trouble.
For starters, porcupines carry rabies. Of course, that presupposes that the dog can get anywhere close enough to get bitten. Usually, they’re quilled and re-quilled until full pincushion status is achieved. At this point, they can no longer see their prey for all the facial barbs they’ve received—or they’re too busy trying to get the painful quills out of their mouths.
Getting rid of the quills is a painstaking process that some vets become very adept at. For the record, I’m not one of them. In my time as an emergency vet up in the Philly suburbs I dealt with a lot of skunkings but never any quillings. Just call me lucky. And now that I live in porc-free Miami I doubt I’ll ever have cause to learn this trick of the trade.
While visiting my friend in the country last year, I was treated to an up-close and personal demonstration of de-quilling. Here are the basics: Anesthesia is in order, as is a hefty dose of antibiotics for all the bacteria the quills carry. A rabies booster may be necessary, too. The barbs are removed by pulling sharply with a hemostat at the base of the quill while holding the surrounding skin down with another to prevent tenting (and more swelling). Pain relievers are good idea, too.
Here are some shots of a bull terrier after he managed to corner a porcupine. There were several thousand quills in this case. This dog's extraterrestrial appearance makes Midgie’s last bout look like a whisker implant (see the post’s home page pic). Dogs will be dogs—and some just don’t know when to quit. Sounds like most men I know.
Image: Tiger Lily / via Flickr