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Skunk Droppings: Identification and Dangers

Skunk Droppings: Identification and Dangers

Skunk droppings may contain certain harmful microbes, like bacteria and viruses. So, is skunk poop toxic to humans, or pets like cats and dogs? Find the answer in this Buzzle article, which deals with the identification and dangers associated with skunk poop.
Akshay Chavan
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
Did You Know?
It is believed that skunks find their own odor repulsive. That is why they avoid spraying in their own dens.
Skunks are popular for their black-and-white coloration, aside from an ability to shoot out a stinky liquid from their hindquarters, on feeling threatened. This animal is an omnivore, which means that it eats anything from nuts, seeds, and berries, to insects, rodents, birds, eggs, and even carrion. Because they are so adaptable, skunks have made themselves at home in most areas of the United States. Most people regard them as a nuisance, thanks to their habit of digging under porches or decks, and giving both barrels of their scent glands to inquisitive pets. However, looking at the stinging effect that the anal spray has on people and pets alike, one may wonder if skunk poop is dangerous as well. For this reason, knowing how to identify skunk poop may be useful. Besides, it may give clues of a possible infestation in your yard.

Skunk Poop Identification
  • Skunk droppings closely resemble that of cats, but have some other peculiar characteristics too.
  • They are tubular in shape, and may be seen in piles near the skunk's nesting sites.
  • The droppings range from ½ to ¼" in diameter, and between 1 to 2" in length, for striped skunks.
  • They have smooth surfaces and blunt ends.
  • When prodded with an object, the droppings tend to disintegrate.
  • An important characteristic of skunk droppings is that, they contain a prominent quantity of insect parts, like that of beetles, which have not been digested.
  • Apart from insects, the scat contains a lot of other things, like seeds, berries, fur, feathers, grass, etc.
  • Droppings of spotted and hooded skunks are similar in appearance, but half the size mentioned above.

Internal Parasites
Skunks carry a number of internal parasites, like roundworms and tapeworms, which can be transmitted to humans and animals alike via their feces. These worms live and lay eggs in the skunk's intestine, which are then passed into its feces. When other animals like pets, birds, or rodents come into contact with the droppings, they may ingest the eggs while licking their coats, or, when they directly consume the droppings. The eggs then make their way into the animal's intestine, where they hatch, thus releasing the parasites. These animals then spread the disease further, via their feces.

Baylisascaris columnaris
A popular example of a parasite which affects skunks is the intestinal roundworm, Baylisascaris columnaris. It is transmitted to pets like dogs and cats, and even humans, where, apart from the intestine, it makes its way into the brain, liver, and the eyes, damaging these parts. Apart from mild symptoms like itching, it may result in neurological damage, blindness, and in a few cases, even death.

Apart from parasitic worms, skunk droppings may transmit diseases caused by harmful bacteria, such as Listeriosis. Both, humans and animals are susceptible to this disease, which can cause fatigue, diarrhea, rash, fever, and result in neurological symptoms like paralysis, and even brain swelling.

Canine Distemper
Skunk scat may transmit harmful viruses which cause diseases like canine distemper, which, as the name suggests, mostly affects dogs, apart from other animals like wolves and coyotes. Typically, an animal gets infected by coming into contact with bodily discharges like nasal droplets, urine, or droppings of an infected skunk. From an initial swelling of the tonsils and lymph nodes, the animal experiences lethargy, fever, nausea, diarrhea, which then progresses to hysterical behavior and neurological damage. There is no cure for this disease, and even if the pet survives, it may be left with lifelong ailments.

Hepatitis is another infamous disease that can be spread by the droppings of infected skunks. It affects humans, apart from animals like dogs, cats, monkeys, and bats. It is caused by a virus which causes liver enlargement and damage, apart from a host of other symptoms, including kidney, lung, and spleen damage, and the development of cancer, which can be fatal.

Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis
Recent research has revealed that the striped skunk is a host of equine protozoal myeloencephalitis, which is caused by a minute group of organisms called protozoa, which are transmitted in the skunk's droppings. As the name suggests, this disorder affects horses, causing severe nervous damage in them. This can result in a number of symptoms, ranging from weakness, snoring, and muscle debilitation, to paralysis, neurological damage, and lameness.

Feline Panleukopenia Virus
Skunk feces can also transmit a viral disease in cats, called the feline panleukopenia virus. This affects the digestive system of a cat, causing symptoms like a loss in appetite, decrease in white blood cell (leukocyte) count, frothy vomit, bloody diarrhea, and anemia, which claims the lives of most of its victims.

While it's easy to develop a fear of skunks (and especially their droppings) after reading the above information, keep in mind that these diseases are rare, even in skunks. Besides, most of these can also be transmitted by other routes like contaminated water, food, or even human bodily discharges, in some cases. The best way to ensure that you or your pets don't encounter skunk poop is to keep skunks out of your yard altogether. This can be done simply by maintaining cleanliness in the yard, and sealing all openings. However, if you do end up encountering skunk poop in your yard, then it's best to sanitize the area, while also ensuring that you don't come in contact with it.