Porcupine quill-bearded canines…they come in all shapes and sizes. Most are definitely picture-worthy spectacles but please (for the love of your veterinarian and pet) leave them alone and immediately bring your pup to the ER! Ok, ok…maybe a bit over the top. If your dog is amenable and just has a few easy quills on the legs or face you might be able to pull them yourself, but if you had that many quills in your body, would you want your buddy to pull them without the benefit of medications?! I doubt it, so please don’t put your 4-legged friend through that.
Why should we see your pup? Porcupine quills are similar to hypodermic needles (except better and dirtier). They have 700-800 barbs along the 4mm tip of each quill. These barbs actually diminish the force needed to penetrate skin by ½ and make it extremely difficult to remove (like a treble hook).
As veterinarians, we prefer that you do your best to keep your pet from scratching at the quills (and breaking them off) and bring them in to us.
Yes, finances are always a factor with veterinary care, but fees for quill removal are generally highly variable. In addition, the time and resources that will be required are difficult assess until your pet is thoroughly sedated and more comfortable. Why? The biggest reason that an accurate assessment cannot be given while your pet is awake is that some of these quills get buried beneath the skin and the quote “needle (quill) in a haystack” comes in to play. Most of the time one of our talented technicians can pull the quills until it comes to quills buried deeply beneath the skin and around blood vessels (in your dog’s neck for example). This situation requires a surgery by the veterinarian to “cut down” to find and remove them. This procedure is sometimes necessary, but it saves you and your poor pup from more procedures down the road (and yes it does increase the bill). Quills that are left behind can migrate and cause further damage and other major procedures.
In summary… if you have a dog that tangles with a porcupine, please bring them in to us right away. We’re always excited for a quill pulling party!! On the other hand, it might be best to keep those sweet dogs inside at night when those playful porcupines are out gallivanting!
Cheers from your local emergency veterinarian!