The Problem With Foxtails
Spring is here and summer is just around the corner. Many of us in Southern California are already out and about enjoying the warmer weather with our dogs. While this time of year should be enjoyed outside, pet parents need to be aware of the problems associated with a common grass-like weed called foxtails.
Foxtails can be found everywhere in Southern California, typically hidden in weedy areas along paths and roads. From January to early April, the foxtails are soft, green and harmless. However, in the late spring the seed heads begin to dry, creating a significant hazard for your dog that lasts throughout the summer and early fall.
The dried foxtail seeds detach from the plant and stick to clothing or animal hair. They can easily become lodged in between a dog’s toes, in its ears or in its eyes. Because the seeds are barbed like a fish hook, they are extremely difficult to remove. Once embedded, foxtail seeds can cause severe infections and abscesses.
Sometimes foxtail seeds can be seen clinging to the fur. When embedded, they can be very difficult to spot. Common symptoms include:
- Inflamed, infected, painful lump anywhere on the body
- Whining or crying with no apparent reason
- Compulsive licking or biting at the paw or tail area
- When in the ear, the dog might rub its head on the ground or shake its head violently from side to side
- When in the eye, the dog might squint and paw at its eyes
- Inhaled foxtail seeds can cause violent sneezing and bloody discharge
In addition to causing pain and infection, foxtail seeds can enter through the nose, ears, paws, eyes or skin and lodge themselves in the spine, lungs or other internal organs. The seeds are small, making them difficult to locate and remove. Depending on where the seed has traveled to inside the dog, it can be life threatening and require immediate surgical removal.
To prevent serious injuries from foxtails:
- Remove weeds from your garden
- Keep your dog away from weeds when walking or hiking
- Discourage your dog from chewing on grass
- Examine your dog daily, feeling for any raised areas on its skin
- Remove visible foxtail seeds carefully by pulling them straight out, ensuring that they do not break in the process
- If you suspect that a foxtail is embedded in your dog’s skin, paw, eye or ear, take your dog to a veterinarian immediately
Claws N Paws Day Spa offers professional pet grooming in Southern California for both dogs and cats. If you are unsure about how to remove a visible foxtail we can show you how. Please call 714-962-1005 for more information or to schedule your next grooming appointment.
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