Fort Saskatchewan veterinarian Dr. Lanni Lafrance once pulled over 300 porcupine quills from a dog’s face.
 
Although dog versus porcupine incidents have been less frequent in the city in recent years, Lafrance still sees pets coming in needing treatment after unexpected encounters with the prickly rodents.

“A porcupine in defense will swing its tail full of quills and slap the dog across the face sometimes or the dog just moves in to kind of sniff at it and in defense it rubs up against it,” Lafrance said, pointing out that some curious dogs who come across porcupines in the local river valley or elsewhere emerge worse off than others. “We've seen anything from two sticking out at the very end of his nose to having a mouthful, face full, neck, body full.”
 
According to Alberta Environment and Parks, porcupines may resort to using their barbed, two-inch long quills when they feel threatened by intruders.
Many dogs only have to go through one quilling to learn their lesson, but others seem to be repeat offenders, getting into one-sided “grudge matches” and seeking the animals out instead of leaving them alone. Lafrance saw one canine suffer through more than six quillings in a three month span.
 
“The dogs decide ‘I'm not going to let that darn thing get the best of me. That's got to be the last one that I saw.’ And then they just decide that they're going to get it.”
 
Lafrance added that porcupines, nocturnal animals who like to hang out in trees during the daytime, sometimes don’t survive their tangles with dogs.
 
Any pet owner whose dog is quilled should seek veterinary assistance immediately, Lafrance said, as porcupine quills can migrate from their entry point to other areas of the body and cause serious health problems down the road.
 
Lafrance described a case of a dog suffering life-threatening seizures after a porcupine quill made its way from the dog’s nose to its brain cavity.
 
“There are cases where they've died of respiratory or heart distress and it was a porcupine quill that migrated through the side of their chest in through their muscles and into their lungs,” she said.
 
After-hours incidents will need a trip to an emergency clinic or a vet with extended hours. Despite some old wives' tales to the contrary, Lafrance said, cutting the ends of quills does not make them easier to remove.

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