Are Porcupines or Their Quills Poisonous?

Although its Latin name means quill pig, the porcupine is obviously not a pig, but a large rodent equipped with coats of sharp spines, or quills, that protect them against predators. There are 29 porcupine species, and all boast a coat of needle-like quills. Some quills, like those of Africa’s crested porcupine, are nearly a foot long. Which brings us to the question…

Africa’s crested porcupine

Are porcupines poisonous? Porcupines are not poisonous or venomous and neither are their quills. The quills grow in varying lengths and colors, depending on the animal’s age and species. They are not deeply rooted in the skin, so losing quills does not harm the animal but can hurt the attacker.

There are two families of porcupines: the Old World porcupines of family Hystricidae, and the New World porcupines of family Erethizontidae. They have differently arranged quills; Old World porcupines have quills embedded in clusters, whereas in New World porcupines, single quills are interspersed with bristles, underfur, and hair.

Although not poisonous, quills have barbs that cannot be seen by the naked eye. So it’s imperative that a doctor or a veterinarian, in case of an animal, remove them.

Are Porcupines Dangerous To Dogs?

It’s not uncommon for dogs to have run-ins with porcupines — especially in the summer and dogs are always on the losing end of the battle in these encounters. The pain caused by the quills is severe and immediate and dogs tend to respond by rubbing the injured area on any object they can. This in turn, only drives the quills deeper. Yikes!

So to recap…

Are porcupines dangerous to dogs? Yes, dogs (and other pets) can get seriously hurt by porcupine quills and it is imperative to bring them to a veterinarian to remove them. Some dogs have been known to die after encountering porcupines.

Vets recommended minimizing your dog’s movement on the way to the veterinary hospital and keeping the paws far away from the quills. Once at the hospital, the dog will most likely be sedated or anesthetized, as well as given medication for the pain.

Dr. Jennifer Gorman, a veterinarian says that “since quills carry bacteria, infection and abscesses are a serious risk, and they can also get stuck in various dangerous locations around the body, including the pet’s eyes, joints or organs. Depending on the nature of the injury, it can result in serious complications, which is why it’s important to have your dog treated as soon as possible.”

Do Porcupines Attack Humans?

Porcupines occupy a small range of habitats in tropical and temperate parts of Asia, Southern Europe, Africa, and North and South America. They live in forests and deserts, rocky outcrops, and hillsides.

If you’re outdoors, you could end up face to quills with a porcupine. But…

Porcupines are not some vicious animals that are out to hurt you, your dogs, or other animals. They are herbivores and they are simply trying to defend themselves from perceived threats, such as curious dogs.

Do porcupines attack humans? No, porcupines do not attack people but they will defend themselves if they perceive you as a threat. The best thing to do is to avoid them completely so neither you, your pets or porcupines get hurt.

Contrary to popular belief, porcupines cannot shoot their quills at someone. Quills are released by contact or may drop out when the porcupine shakes its body. They do not have the ability to project their quills to a considerable distance at an enemy.

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