You'd think that if you discovered the hands-down, bar-none best way for dealing with a pet who has been skunked, you'd be able to sell your formula for a tidy sum and be set for life, right?
Wrong. At least, that's not the way it worked for chemist Paul Krebaum, who found just such a magic formula a few years ago -- and hasn't gained anything but the gratitude of pet lovers for his troubles.
First the formula, then the story.
Take 1 quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide (available from any drugstore), 1/4 cup of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate for you science types) and 1 teaspoon of liquid soap, such as Ivory. Mix and immediately apply to the stinky pet. Rinse thoroughly with tap water.
The result is astonishing.
Unfortunately, so will be the explosion if you made up the solution and then tried to bottle it. The merging of the hydrogen peroxide and baking soda creates lots of oxygen in a big hurry. This chemical reaction is key to how the solution works, but it's also fierce enough to explode in a closed container.
Which is why Paul Krebaum hasn't capitalized on his discovery. There's just no way to sell something you can't put in a bottle.
And it's a shame, too, because the man deserves some kind of reward. The stuff really works. Not like tomato juice, which dampens the odor a little and leaves you with a slightly less-stinky pink dog. Commercial preparations seem to fare a little better, but even with them it's the passing of time that seems to finally do the trick.
But the hydrogen peroxide mix? Skunk be gone!
The trick is the oxygen, which grabs the molecules that go into that horrid smell. Once snagged, the smell is neutralized. Simple chemistry, really.
Since Krebaum published his findings in a trade journal in 1993, his magic formula has spread far and wide, offered up by agriculture officials and hunting magazines, and touted by folks on the Internet. The Chicago Tribune gave him a good write-up in 1994 that got picked up by newspapers all over the country. In it, he called his mix a "free-gift-to-humanity type deal."
I first heard about this formula a couple of years ago and read reports from many who raved about it. I made up the solution to see what it was like, but never got lucky enough to try it on one of my dogs. They just don't seem all that interested in skunks when we're walking in the wooded area near our home.
Finally, a friend called to tell me her setter had been skunked and to ask my advice. At last! The chance to try out the mix.
I must admit she didn't share my enthusiasm, at least not at first. She had already bathed the dog in soap and water. She had poured eight quarts of tomato juice over him. And still he smelled. So I told her about Paul Krebaum's miracle skunk cure.
A couple of hours later, Krebaum had another believer. The dog slept on the bed that night.
I suppose it's not very practical to suggest that everyone who's grateful to Paul Krebaum send him a few bits to make up for some of the money he'll never make on his miracle skunk cure. So maybe it would be nice if you save this article for when you'll need it, and when you do, say a few silent words of thanks to the man who'll get you out of one stinky fix.
PETS ON THE WEB
Macaws are among the most popular of pet birds, known for their stunning good looks and outgoing personalities. Most people are familiar with the blue-and-gold macaw, but several other macaw species are available as pets, from the small mini-macaws to the largest of all pet birds, the hyacinth. One Web site that can help you sort it all out is Those Magnificent Macaws (www.exoticbird.com). Jam-packed with information and well-organized as well, the site offers a good overview of species, health care and nutrition, and other available resources. Lots of good pictures, too. My only complaint would be that the blue-on-black type is hard to read. But it's a small quibble about an otherwise fine Internet resource.
Puppies have 28 baby (or deciduous) teeth that give way to 42 permanent ones by the time a dog's about 4 months old. Pet owners are generally glad to see those needle-teeth go, but you do need to make sure the transition is a complete one. Sometimes baby teeth are retained, a situation that can cause misalignment of the permanent teeth, incorrect development of the jaw and infections. Check your puppy's mouth frequently, watching for "double rows" that indicate retained teeth. Talk to your veterinarian about any abnormal developments -- some stubborn baby teeth need to be permanently removed.
QUESTIONS FROM THE PACK
Q: I have two house rabbits, both neutered. They have free run of our apartment, which has been as bunny-proofed as it can be. We provide them with lots of alfalfa, chew sticks, dried pine cones, pellets and treats. We even built a "tree house" for them similar to a multilevel cat house, but with lots of untreated exposed wood to nibble and scratch. They love it and spend most of their time curled up together inside the little house at the top.
Even with all this, they still seem as if they don't have enough to entertain them. We spend as much time as possible lying on the floor when we watch TV because they enjoy climbing all over us.
I just would love some easy-to-find (or make) toy ideas to keep my little guys busy and avoid the boredom that usually leads to mischief. Any suggestions? -- M.B., via e-mail
A: What lucky buns! And your instincts are right on the money: Your guys need more toys. The wonderful House Rabbit Society offers quite a few tried-and-true suggestions, most of them costing little or nothing at all.
Cardboard in all forms can be great fun. Try boxes for chewing on or hiding in. The cores of toilet paper or paper towel rolls are likewise great for chewing on as well as batting around. For variety, fill the boxes full of shredded paper, junk mail (at last, a use for it), old magazines or straw.
Old phone directories are great for shredding, as are untreated wicker baskets (again, filled with chewables). Untreated grass doormats are fun, too.
Toys made for other pets will work well for rabbits. Parrot toys, especially, are designed to be gleefully destroyed and can be hung on the side of cages to make your bunnies work to get them. Hard-rubber Kong toys sized for small dogs are great for pushing around, as are plastic balls meant for cats. The hard-plastic tops of laundry detergent and softener bottles (clean well beforehand) are perfect for batting around, and you can't beat the price.
The House Rabbit Society is the most incredible resource imaginable for people who love these affectionate and playful pets. Membership ($18 annually) supports the nonprofit group's effort to rescue and place unwanted rabbits, and comes with a quarterly newsletter that offers great ideas for taking the best care possible of the ever-growing number of indoor rabbits. For more information, write to the HRS at P.O. Box 1201, Alameda, CA 94501; or visit the Web site at www.rabbit.org.
Q: I've been seeing ads in magazines for heartworm pills for cats. I give them monthly to my dogs, but should my cats get them, too? -- M.U., via e-mail
A: There are times when it's convenient to have one of the world's top veterinary cardiologists in your circle of friends, and this is one of them. Dr. Paul D. Pion, CEO of the Veterinary Information Network (and my "Cats For Dummies" co-author), says the answer depends on where you live. Heartworms are everywhere in places like Florida and Texas, and in those places, says Pion, he'd recommend preventive medication. In other places, heartworm is uncommon in dogs and unheard-of in cats, so preventive measures aren't so important.
The cost of not giving medications might be high, though, warns Pion. Although heartworm infestations are rare in cats, they are also not easily treated. In cats and dogs both, preventing heartworm is a much safer course than treating an animal once it has the pests.
The bottom line? If you live where the pest is very common in dogs, it may well be prudent to protect your cat as well as your dogs. Talk to your veterinarian about the risks in your area.
Gina Spadafori is the award-winning author of "Dogs for Dummies," "Cats for Dummies" and "Birds for Dummies." She is also affiliated with the Veterinary Information Network Inc., an international online service for veterinary professionals. Write to her in care of this newspaper, or send e-mail to writetogina(at)spadafori.com.
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