A crowdfunding campaign set up by a Canadian man highlights how devastatingly effective porcupine quills are as a defensive mechanism, with three pet dogs injured in an aptly described "nasty encounter".
The dogs – Mahola, Nestah, and Soljah – had a run-in with a porcupine in the city of Saskatoon in central Saskatchewan, leading to a number of grisly quill-inflicted injuries, which you can see here in the pictures.
The dogs are owned by a youth worker and organic farmer called Dennis, and the crowdfunding page was set up by his friend Mike Gerrand to help cover vet bills stemming from the incident. According to Gerrand, the initial vet bills were expected to cost some $8,000, with Dennis needing all the help he can get, having had to take time off work to look after his badly injured pets.
Worst faring was female Mahola, who required extensive surgery to remove quills and prevent damage to her heart and lungs. Fears were also high for Nestah, Gerrand writes, with speculation a quill may have lodged in his abdomen. According to the latest update, all the dogs are safe and healing, although further operations are ongoing to remove the dangerous quills.
Fortunately for Dennis, at least in terms of finances, at time of writing the campaign had met its original funding goal of $10,000 and was swiftly passing even $15,000.
Porcupine quills form an extremely effective defensive barrier for the rodents who wear them. Not only are they sharp enough to easily puncture any predators who get too close, but they can also be very tricky to remove once you've been impaled.
The North American porcupine's quills, which grow back after coming free, are covered in as many as 800 backward-facing microscopic barbs. These let the quills attach to prey quickly once contact is made (while simultaneously detaching easily from the porcupine) and also help the quill lodge firmly in any threats. For curious or aggressive dogs, porcupine quills are something of a problem.
Despite a huge show of support for the loveable-looking dogs, not everybody is getting behind the crowdfunding campaign, however. One commenter on the page – whose comment has since been removed – voiced criticism of pet owners who don't exercise control over their animals and enquired as to the welfare of the porcupine, wondering where all the sympathy for this potentially injured or killed animal was amidst the outpouring of attention for the dogs. (Especially when the dogs presumably attacked the porcupine, not the other way around.)
It's a fair point, and we'd encourage all dog owners to maintain control over their animals and always be aware of their pets' actions and behaviour around small animals (and people). In the meantime, we wish Mahola, Nestah, and Soljah all the best for a speedy recovery!