The Dangers of Foxtails

As dog owners most of us have at least heard the word foxtails but beyond that what do we really know?  Sure you may have heard to stay away from them but what if you’re not exactly positive what they look like?  Most owners do not know the dangers of foxtails and how easily they can ruin animals’ lives.  To avoid any kind of trauma in the future we are digging into foxtails and what to be aware of.   

The tricky part about foxtails is most of the time they look harmless- a long grassy plant that dances with the wind and can be beautiful from afar.  Foxtails don’t all look the same but for the most part they are long stemmed grass-like plants with the brownish seed at the top.  Foxtails resemble wheat or barley plants.  When it gets dry (just about all year round in southern California) the plants became sand colored and the seed heads end up just about everywhere and don’t stop until they are lodged in somewhere.  These problematic seeds are difficult to remove, “To make sure that seeds take root to the ground, the clusters contain barbs that make it hard for the cluster to come loose from the dirt once it begins to penetrate. The outside part of the cluster also harbors bacteria composed of enzymes that break down cellular matters; thus, helping the seed bury itself into the ground past the other plants.” (Dogington Post) 

Okay so what if these seeds get attached to my dog?  How much damage can they possibly do? A LOT.  If you don’t believe us, listen to the experts: Dr. Raymond Bouloy, a veterinarian at Cypress Creek Pet Center in Cedar Park, Texas explains, “If foxtails penetrate the chest wall or are inhaled, they can cause life-threatening chest cavity infections or lung abscesses. If the foxtail penetrates the nervous system, they can lead to spinal cord abscesses causing pain and paralysis or brain abscesses.”  (PetMd).  Common places that dogs pick up foxtails are the paw, ear, nose or mouth.  If your dog has a longer coat it is easier for foxtails to be picked up and easier for them to stay hidden.  If your dog starts acting differently (lethargic, no appetite, bleeding, sneezing, etc.) a vet visit may be in order.  If you’ve been in an area where foxtails could be present, make sure you let your vet know so they can check.   

If you come across foxtails on your walk or hike make sure you keep your dog close to your side and on the trail.  Brush them and check their paws after the walk to be sure they haven’t caught any seeds.  We’ve seen first hand how sticky and scary foxtails can be so be careful out there!  If you know someone who hikes their dogs be sure to send this blog to get them informed and share your foxtail experience with us here!  


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