A serious hazard for dogs, especially those that frequent fields (i.e. hunting dogs), are the hard seed-bearing structures of some kinds of grasses, often called “foxtails”. These plants have sharp points at one end, and microscopic barbs, so that they easily move in the direction of the point, but not the other way. Relatively speaking, they work their way into things, but they don’t work themselves out. As they work their way in, they can cause infection, most of which if not treated can be fatal.
The most troublesome grass is the actual “foxtail” or “wild barley” (Hordeum murinum). The individual reproductive structures are small and easy to overlook. This grass may be located in weedy areas around places like roads, paths, vacant lots, or wild fields. It is an annual plant species, and is soft and green from January through March or April. As the seed heads dry in the late spring, they become dangerous, and they stay that way throughout the summer and early fall.
The most common locations for foxtail entrapment include the webbing between the toes, the ear canal, and the nose. This causes extreme discomfort in an animal. Foxtails have also been found lodged in the pharynx (throat), lungs, behind eyelids, stomach, small intestine, trachea, and have even migrated to the brain!
Signs of foxtail entrapment can include:
- Red, moist seeping wounds (especially between the toes)
- A head tilt (in cases involving the ear and/or head)
- Ear irritation
- Excessive sneezing with or without blood (in cases involving the nose)
- Acute eye squinting and/or redness (in cases involving the eyes)
Ways to protect your pet from foxtails include:
- Removal of plants from your yard, especially in the green phase before they seed – This reduces their numbers and eliminates exposures.
- Application of weed killers
- Checking your pet’s hair coat DAILY, especially between the toes and under the ear flaps.
If you believe that your pet has encountered hazardous foxtails, please call us as soon as possible at +1 (530) 244-2287