Skunks are relatively commonly kept as pets. They tend to adapt well and can be easily trained to use a litter box and to walk on a harness. They are members of the Mustelidae family, a group of mammals which includes ferrets, badgers, mink and otters. The dietary requirement of skunks is very different from other members of the Mustelidae family. Incorrect diets are the cause of a significant percentage of their medical problems. Conflicting information from different sources and the absence of commercially available skunk diets conspire to make it more difficult for owners. The striped skunk is the most common species kept. The unique aspects of their anatomy, physiology and behaviour make providing health care for them very rewarding.
|Average life span||8–10 years|
|Average body weight||2–4 kg (7–10 lbs)|
|21–32 inches (50–80 cm)
7–16 inches (18–40cm)
|Body temperature||97–98ºF (36–37ºC)|
|Heart rate||140–190 bpm|
|Dental formula||I 3/3, C 1/1, P 3/3, M 1/1|
|Sexual maturity||1 year|
|Breeding cycle||Mating in Feb/March
single litter in early May
|Gestation period||62–66 days
|Birth weight||1 oz|
|Eyes open (pupils)||3–4 weeks|
Eleven different species of skunks belong to the Mephitidae family. The striped skunk, Mephitis mephitis, is the species most commonly kept as a companion animal and that we most commonly see. Free-ranging skunks are well recognized for spraying a foul-smelling secretion from their scent glands as a defense mechanism, this is always a small risk during examinations.
Obesity and dental disease are the big problems in skunks kept as companion animals.
We would strongly recommend to owners that a preventative medicine is formulated specific to their animal(s) and their husbandry conditions. This can be drawn up by us after a first health check. It should include a plan for
- Worms treatment/prevention
- External parasite treatment
- Dietary plan
- Social groupings
- Reproductive plan
Not all of the above will be relevant to all animals. For example there may be no or a very tiny risk of internal and/or external parasite which would influence the plan.