What you need to know: Porcupine Quills

Photo Courtesy of: http://www.lolboom.net/10-poor-dogs-that-have-been-attacked-by-porcupines/11/

With the warmer weather on the way, everyone is eager to get active and enjoy the outdoors. This includes porcupines! Quill accidents are the most common wildlife -dog interaction we see at Fifth Avenue Veterinary Clinic. Did you know that North American porcupines have around 30,000 quills on their backs? Porcupines can’t shoot their quills, but it doesn’t take much to swing their tail or back into a predator leaving behind several quills. The number of quills a dog gets can vary from a couple quills to hundreds of quills on their face, legs, chest and abdomen and even in their mouth.

If your dog gets quilled, please do not attempt to remove the quills yourself. Instead, take them to the nearest veterinarian as soon as possible.


  1. Removing quills under sedation and/or anesthesia is the safest, most humane and effective way to help these dogs. Being quilled and having them removed are painful. Sedation allows us to have a thorough look for quills in the mouth, jowls etc. Pulling quills in an awake dog before bringing them to the clinic stimulates them and we often have to use much higher doses of sedatives to get good sedation in the clinic if this happens. Dogs can quickly become head shy after attempting to remove quills while they are awake, which can lead to other problems later on.
  2. Quills break easily. It’s best to remove them as soon as possible. They tend to soften after being present for a few hours and this makes them more susceptible to breaking. When quills break it’s easy to leave pieces behind.
  3. Quills have microscopic backwards-facing barbs, which means they slide in very easily and are difficult to remove. They also continue to migrate forward and can end up in dangerous places. Although it’s uncommon, quills can migrate to eyes, joints, abdomen and thorax. This is not only painful for dogs, but can also lead to infection.
  4. Try to keep your dog calm while transporting them to the vet. Dogs often want to paw their face which can break the quills. If you have an e-collar or ‘cone’ at home, it is a good idea to put this on them until the quills can be removed.




This article was written by Kirstie Puskas, DVM, Fifth Avenue Veterinary Clinic. We provide team-based vet care for pets and their families from our animal hospital in Orangeville, Ontario.

POSTED: 2017-03-15 Bookmark and Share
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