What if your dog is attacked by a porcupine?

As the days get longer and warmer, we shed our outer layers, emerge from the comfort of our homes, and venture out into nature with dogs in tow. Although we may be careful to stick to paths and steer clear of wild animals, dogs are often more curious. In their wanderings, they may encounter a veritable foe – the porcupine.

In most cases, dogs are inquisitive about this “friend” or their prey drive kicks in and they can’t keep from attacking. Porcupines have developed a highly sophisticated defense mechanism – their backs are covered with thin, needle-like quills that release on contact. The quills easily penetrate soft tissues, causing the aggressor to retreat.  The porcupine, now safe, may go about its business, re-growing its lost quills for the next time someone gets too close. The quills are certainly effective in protecting the porcupine, but unfortunately, may seriously harm or even kill the victim.

Porcupine attacks can vary from a few quills to several hundreds. The quills are typically lodged in the face, neck, chest, and shoulders. There are often quills in the mouth and nose, and occasionally the eyes may be affected. The quills stay lodged in the tissues long after the porcupine encounter, migrating deeper, instead of outwards like a sliver would. This causes tissue trauma, pain, and infection.

What to do if your dog is attacked by a porcupine?

  • Keep your dog calm – your dog will want to paw its face in an attempt to remove the painful quills. However, in doing this, he is likely to break the quills or lodge them deeper.
  • Do NOT remove the quills yourself or cut the quills. Porcupine quills have microscopic barbs that cause pain upon removal. If a quill is broken or cut, it can be lost in the deeper tissues, making the veterinarian’s job in removing them much more difficult, and sometimes impossible. Dogs can also have lifelong face handling fears from having quills removed without sedation.
  • Bring your dog immediately to a veterinarian. Call ahead so that the team can prepare for your arrival and help the process to flow as smoothly and quickly as possible for you and your canine companion.

At Lomsnes Veterinary Hospital

Your dog will be examined to assess the severity of the attack and to ensure your dog can safely handle the sedation. Your dog will then be sedated with a combination of drugs that also provides pain relief.  Removing quills is an uncomfortable procedure and sedation allows your veterinarian to effectively remove them in a humane manner. The quills are removed by gripping them close to the skin with hemostats (surgical instrument) and gently pulling. The mouth, tonsils, ears, eyes, and limbs are all examined for quills. Once the veterinarian feels that all quills have been removed, the dog is allowed to wake from its sedation. Unless very mild, pain medication will be sent home.

If treated promptly after the attack, most dogs will not require antibiotics. However, if the quills are allowed to fester, infection will occur and antibiotics will be needed.

What if I don’t bring my dog to the vet?

Porcupine quills will not simply fall out over time. Due to their pointed structure and backwards facing barbs, they will continue to push deeper into the tissue. The body reacts by trying to break down the quills, bringing white blood cells (pus) to form around them. As quills move deeper over time, they cause pain. They may even penetrate important organs and structures – quills may be found months to years later in the lungs, heart, and abdominal organs, compromising their function and potentially causing death. Even waiting only a few days to see a veterinarian is enough time for the quills to move under the skin, making it difficult to locate and remove them. Costly procedures using ultrasound or CT may be required to locate and attempt to remove deep quills.

Most dogs that are seen by a veterinarian immediately after a porcupine attack and have the quills removed have no lasting complications.  Should you have any questions regarding porcupine attacks or any other condition affecting your pet, do not hesitate to contact the Lomsnes Veterinary Hospital at 403-342-6040.

Written By: Dr. Rebecca Jackson



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Last Updated: December 17, 2020

Dear Clients,

As of December 11, 2020 our veterinary hospital will continue to operate with a closed-door policy.


To book an appointment, please call 403-342-6040 or email info@lomsnesvet.ca. Due to higher than normal call volume, we may be busy with other clients and patients. Please leave us a message or send us an email and we will get back to you as soon as possible. We appreciate your patience as we do our best to accommodate everyone's needs.



Credit/Debit cards are the preferred payment method.


With the cold weather approaching we will be changing our curbside pickup protocol:

  1. For the purchase of food, treats and/or medications please call at least an hour ahead of time, and your order will be prepared. Prepaying over the phone is recommended.
  2. Our main door will be open for purchase/pickup of food, treats and medications only.
  3. Masks are mandatory in hospital at all times. No exceptions. Please use our hand sanitizer in the clinic.
  4. Maximum of two people in the reception area at all times.
  5. If you have not already prepaid, you will pay for your order at the reception desk. Please maintain social distancing while in the clinic and do not wander throughout the clinic.
  6. Your order will be ready with your name on it. Once you have paid for your order at the reception desk, you can pick it up on your way out.

*Please note, only one person per family is allowed in the building to pick up items.


Online shopping is available for your pet from the comfort of your own home 24/7. Your order will be delivered directly to your home! Visit our website and click on "Online Store" to register. It’s that easy!


If you wish to connect with a veterinarian via message, phone or video, visit our website and follow the "Online Consultation" link.


Have you welcomed a new furry family member to your home? We’d love to meet them! Visit our Must Know New Pet Owner Information page for useful resources and helpful recommendations for new pet owners.


We are OPEN with the following hours:
Monday to Friday: 8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Saturday: 9:00 am - 1:00 pm
Sunday: CLOSED

We will always be here, so your pet will continue to receive the care they deserve. With this new system, we will provide our medical services without compromising the health and safety of our dedicated team members. This protocol may take longer; however, it is something we have to do to keep our community safe. With that in mind, please be extra patient and kind to our team members. These circumstances place added responsibilities and stress on all of us.

These measures are temporary and we will reassess as time goes on. Please keep a lookout for any further updates from our team. Together, we can all help in stopping the spread of Covid-19. 

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to call us at 403-342-6040. Please note that we are receiving more calls than usual. We apologize for any delays that you may experience when reaching out to us.

Your dedicated team at Lomsnes Veterinary Hospital