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Two examples of dogs with porcupine quills
Mike Gerrard | Central Veterinary Clinic

Pissed Off Porcupines Prickling Pooches In Calgary’s Prettiest Park

As more people enjoy the outdoors with their dogs, Nose Hill Park’s porcupines are making their presence felt—literally.

There are many acupuncture benefits, but not when your acupuncturist is a porcupine. 

Thanks to these unqualified practitioners, emergency vet clinics in Calgary have their hands full. 

Since the beginning of May, Paramount 24-Hour Animal Hospital has treated at least one quilled dog daily. 

Paramount is located near Nose Hill Park, where the infamous Porcupine Valley is found. The park is home to many different species of wildlife, including deer, coyotes, and porcupines.

While porcupines are nocturnal and spend most of their time in trees, more can be found on the ground at this time of year. 

Most human babies are born in the spring and early summer; the same applies to animals. Porcupine babies are usually born between April and June.

A mature porcupine with its baby crossing the road
A mature porcupine with its baby | Sandy Brown Jensen | Flickr

Porcupine moms are often out and about getting food for their babies. At the same time, more people are out with their dogs enjoying the nice weather. 

The result is more unwanted wildlife encounters between porcupines and pups. 

Regarding small mammals, the saying “curiosity killed the cat” is better suited for dogs. 

Dogs like to stick their nose where it doesn’t belong and will often act predatory toward small mammals, including porcupines 

In this case, dogs are sticking their nose into porcupine quills and paying the price. 

A common misconception is that porcupines can shoot their quills, which is false.

If a dog gets quilled, it’s because it touched a porcupine that didn’t want to be touched. 

Another myth is that cutting off the ends of quills deflates them and makes them easier to remove. 

Once again, this is false. 

If your dog gets quilled, the only appropriate response is to take them to the vet. 

Cutting or trying to remove the quills yourself can cause them to enter your dog’s body, which can lead to the development of abscesses. These abscesses can lead to potentially fatal body-wide infections.

An infographic with facts about porcupines
An infographic with facts about porcupines | Scholarly Community Encyclopedia

Dog Walk Turned Emergency Vet Visit

Dog walker Ashliegh Skaper was walking three dogs in Nose Hill Park earlier this week when the pack sniffed out a porcupine. You can probably guess the outcome.

One of the dogs ended up with quills in her nose and mouth. She was quilled so badly that Skaper said she was put under anesthesia. 

“The worst case of quills that we’ve seen was a dog that was under anesthetic for over five hours because he attacked a porcupine and then rolled in the porcupine,” Dr. Heather MacQuarrie, a veterinarian at Paramount, told CBC News.

A dog after getting quilled by a porcupine | Elaine Moore | Flickr
A dog after getting quilled by a porcupine | Elaine Moore | Flickr

After the prickly encounter in Nose Hill Park, Skaper has some words of wisdom for anyone in the area. She warns people to be on the lookout for porcupines and teach their dogs the “leave it” command. 

Skaper thinks all dogs should be kept on a leash until they learn to leave something alone on command. 

Porcupines are most active at dawn and dusk, so dogs should especially be put on a leash at these times. 

Not all porcupine encounters happen in parks like Nose Hill Park.

Encounters between dogs and porcupines can happen right in your backyard! 

If your yard backs onto a green space, MacQuarrie suggests checking your yard for porcupines before letting your pup out. 

MacQuarrie’s advice is especially true for Calgarians whose properties are close to Nose Hill Park.

“The porcupines are brutal on Nose Hill! The worst is when the stupid buggers crawl off the hill and into your yard! I had both my pups get from porkies in our own yard! Like magic though, those porkies seem to have vanished!” wrote one disgruntled Calgary resident on the Outdoorsmen Forum

When a dog gets quilled, they aren’t the only victim. Calgary Wildlife takes in as many as ten injured porcupines yearly, many of which were attacked by dogs. 

Classifying porcupines as troublesome rodents is easy, but these small mammals are very important to the ecosystem. 

Porcupines transport food and nutrients from tree canopies to the forest floor by dropping large branches and lots of poop. 

In doing so, porcupines promote the growth of rare or endangered plants and increase an ecosystem’s biodiversity. Porcupines are more than rodents; they are the unsung hero of successful ecosystems. 

The only thing that should be turning its nose up at porcupines is a dog trying to avoid a face full of quills!

Dog walker Ashliegh Skaper walking her pack at Nose Hill Park
Dog walker Ashliegh Skaper walking her pack at Nose Hill Park | Karina Zapata | CBC News

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