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How Do I Remove Porcupine Quills?

Porcupine quills are frequently painful, and may have to be removed by a doctor.
A visit to the veterinarian may be necessary if an animal has porcupine quills stuck in them.
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  • Written By: Amanda R. Bell
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 23 September 2014
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Removing porcupine quills, whether from an animal or human, can be a painful and tedious process. To start, you will need to look over yourself, the other person, or your pet thoroughly to find all of the quills. Then, use a sturdy set of pliers to remove each quill from the skin, rinsing the open wound with hydrogen peroxide, and applying an antibiotic cream to aid in healing and to reduce the risk of infection. If any of the porcupine quills are located inside the mouth, or there are simply too many to remove all of them at once without causing extreme pain, a trip to the doctor or veterinarian may be necessary.

Before you begin extracting the quills from a human or animal, it is important to remember that the process is painful, and it is best to avoid breaking off any of the porcupine quills in the skin. For this reason, you may need another adult present when removing the quills from a small child or animal to help restrain them during the process. Depending on a pet’s temperament, it may be safer to have a professional remove the quills after giving the animal a mild sedative.

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In most cases, a set of pliers will be the most effective tool to remove porcupine quills. To avoid the risk of infection, clean the tools with rubbing alcohol prior to using them. Then, place the nose of the pliers around the quill as close to the skin as possible. Using a slow, steady pulling motion, carefully remove the quill from the skin. In some cases, pulling straight upwards may not be the best idea, as this can increase the chances of a quill breaking off if it penetrated the skin at an angle. When pulling, make sure to pay attention to the angle of the quill and pull it out in the direction in which it entered the skin.

Once all of the porcupine quills are removed, clean the affected area with a cotton ball soaked in hydrogen peroxide. Then, apply an antibiotic ointment or cream to each wound and cover it with a small bandage. This will help to keep the ointment on the skin, prevent infection, and limit the wound’s exposure to irritants.

If you, another person, or an animal only has a few porcupine quills embedded in his or her skin, you can typically take care of the problem using this process. In general, however, it is best for a professional to remove the quills if there are several of them, as it can be too uncomfortable, especially for animals. In the event that a quill breaks off in the skin, you should contact a doctor or veterinarian immediately to determine how to proceed.

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