How to Protect Your Dog From Foxtails

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How to Protect Your Dog From Foxtails

As the spring creeps up and local residents start spending more and more time outdoors with their pets, it’s important to educate pet owners about the dangers of a common plant in our area: foxtails. While this feather-like grass may seem harmless, its seeds are quite dangerous for dogs and can even be fatal in some more serious cases.

Since foxtail removal is a common procedure performed at Butte Oroville Veterinary Clinic during the spring and summer months, we want to help you prepare yourself for potential contact.

Why are foxtails harmful?

Foxtails are designed to find your pet. The seeds have spikes that are designed to attach to passing wildlife and they disperse as the animal moves from place to place, allowing the weed to spread across our area via local wildlife. The spikes are more than just harmless hitchhikers, however, as their barbs work much like fishhooks. These barbs travel through your dogs fur or are ingested into the body through the nose or mouth. When foxtail spikes enter the body, they can cause abscesses due to the bacteria or even migrate to the lungs and heart.

What are the warning signs?

When walking outside, most dogs like to sniff everything to familiarize themselves with their surroundings. That being said, we most often find foxtails in the nose. For most dogs, an onset of sneezing after being outside is a telltale sign. Other warning signs include excessive itching and bloody nose.

Other common areas for foxtails to hide include the ears or eyes and in between the toes. If a seed has found its way into your dog’s ear, you will notice him or her rubbing and shaking the sides of their head. Should one be in the ear, the eye will produce a discharge and your dog will most likely rub his or her face against objects to itch the inflammation. In turn, continued licking on the pads of the feet can indicate a seed lodged in between toes.

How can foxtail complications be prevented?

Early identification is the factor that saves most pets that come in contact with the potentially fatal foxtail plants. After returning from a walk, groom your pet with a brush and watch for any seeds or rashes. If your pet has a longer coat and you live in an area with abundant foxtails, consider trimming you dog’s hair in the spring and summer. The most basic preventative measure you can take is to keep your dog away from tall grass – you can do this by vetting the locations or your walks and keeping your pet on a leash to avoid wandering.

What do you do if your dog comes in contact with foxtails?

The first thing to do is keep your pet calm. The more an animal moves, the deeper the barbed spikes lodge themselves into the skin or fur. Once your pet is relaxed, visit a veterinarian immediately to properly identify and remove the seeds and examine your pet for further damage.

The most preventative measure you can take as a pet owner is to educate yourself on what the plants look like and where in your area they are commonly discovered. Should your pet come in contact with a foxtail plant, give us a call! We are happy to take a look because you know it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Posted Thursday, February 20, 2014