Porcupine Quills in Pets: First Aid and Removal
Veterinary & Aquatic Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith

Cause
Quills of the porcupine.

General Information
Porcupine quills can penetrate any area of an animal. They have backward-pointing barbs that hold them firmly in place and make them difficult to remove. If not removed promptly, quills can move further into the skin, even becoming buried in the skin.

Toxic Dose
Not applicable

Signs
Quills will be imbedded, usually in the mouth and front paws. The animal generally tries to paw at his face in an attempt to remove the quills, which are very painful. This only results in burying the quills deeper, and/or breaking them off, which makes them harder to remove.

Immediate Action
Stop the dog from pawing his face. If your pet escaped with only a few external (outside the mouth) quills, you may be able to remove them yourself. First restrain your pet, then, using hemostats or pliers, grab a quill as close to the skin as possible and steadily pull the quill out. Be sure to examine your pet's entire body feeling for hidden quills. Since they can range in length from one-half inch to four inches, they may not all be readily visible. If your pet has more than several quills, quills in the mouth, or one has broken off under the skin, seek veterinary attention immediately. It is absolutely necessary that all quills be removed.

Veterinary Care
General treatment: Your veterinarian may give your pet an anesthetic (especially for quills in the mouth or throat) to aid in removing the quills.

Supportive treatment: An antihistamine may be given to ward off an allergic skin reaction and swelling. A mild pain reliever may be prescribed.

Specific treatment: Not applicable

Prognosis
Good. However, if quills are not removed, they can travel through the body and cause injury to internal organs.

 
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