Queen of quills: Bull terrier Inca looking like a shrapnel victim
It was 23 May 2005, Victoria Day in Canada, when the bull terrier, named Inca, had her ill-fated skirmish with the porcupine, and it seems the headstrong hound didn’t know when to quit. “Thousands of quills were embedded even in her tongue,” explained the dog’s owner at the time; and the poor pooch was unable even to close her mouth. “The vets worked for quite some time to get [the] quills out and even still could not get them all. The one’s that are left will work themselves out over time. Inca is home and on antibiotics and pain killers.” A few months later the dog had recovered; not so the porcupine.
Prickly customer: Yet the porcupine will never instigate attacks
While the pictures from the aftermath of the clash kindle our sympathy for man’s best friend – particularly knowing that the long procedure to remove the quills involved cutting some of them out, stitches between the dog’s toes, and a fair amount of blood – at least the bull terrier survived. The porcupine “didn’t walk away from this one I’m afraid,” reported the owner. Too late for the vet to save the spiny warrior’s life; just the opportunity to test its body for rabies, with concern over the fact that it’s “peculiar for a porcupine that is mature as this one was to go wandering up near a house with three dogs.”
Walking wounded: Another canine victim with a face full of quills
Some dogs, like those that accompanied Inca, have the sense not to harass porcupines. For despite the fact that many canines have the firepower of size, tooth and claw to overcome this potent North American rodent, and expose its vulnerable underbelly, the porcupine is clearly no pushover for a predator. In the porcupine’s defence is not only a coat of some 30,000 quills covering its back and sides, but the way in which it wields these natural weapons against attackers: if threatened, it will raise its quills in a display of power, and if the unwanted attention persists, it will charge backwards waving its tail to and fro.
Recovery time: Dog receiving treatment to remove porcupine spines
Contrary to popular belief, the porcupine is not able to fire its quills at enemies. Rather, the spines are loosely attached to its body and released on contact with the assailant, whereupon they can be driven nearly an inch into the skin. Hundreds of tiny barbs or hooks on each quill also make them difficult and painful to remove. Moreover, as many a reckless animal has discovered – from birds of prey to domestic animals, like dogs – a mouth or throat full of quills can ultimately be fatal due to infections caused by germs on the spines, or the affected animal being unable to eat and starving to death.
Nothing like a mouthful of quills: Dog with a spiny moustache
Cases of dogs being quilled by porcupines are not uncommon in North America, and as we have seen, serious injury or worse is quite possible. That said, with care taken, preferably by a vet, to calm the afflicted animal, gently remove the quills one by one and apply antiseptic to the punctures, the dog should make a recovery. As for the porcupine, well, if it manages to get away, new quills should grow back to replace those shed. Then with any luck this poor creature – just as deserving of our sympathy, for it didn’t ask to be attacked – will not die from any injuries sustained, or from sheer shock.