For many, spring is a season of runny noses and itchy eyes. However, when it comes to foxtail grass, springtime poses a dangerous time for your dogs. If you live in a place where foxtails are everywhere, pet parents need to practice constant vigilance to protect our pets from these sneaky little springtime terrors.
What are Foxtails?
If you’re new to the western US, or a new dog owner, chances are you haven’t paid much attention to foxtails. If you’re walking your dog, even in the city, chances are you’re coming into contact with these pesky plants, because they are everywhere. The foxtail is a grass that has a particularly bristly and barbed seed awns whose sole purpose is to infiltrate your dog in any way possible. Okay, maybe it’s not… but it sure feels like these foxtails are on a mission!
Come late spring and early summer, when the plant head dries and the seeds break off, all dog owners are on high alert. The dry seed awns are like tiny spears flying through the air, hoping to end up in your dog’s ears, nose, eyes, and mouth. Basically, they will find any opening and then grip on for dear life, even digging through the skin after hiding between a couple of toes. Once they’ve landed on your dog, they become almost completely camouflaged by the hairs on your dog, and many parents won’t notice anything until the dog starts showing signs of discomfort.
Depending on where the foxtail ends up, the symptoms can vary greatly.
Symptoms of foxtail infestation
If left untreated, foxtails will continue their path through your dog’s body, carrying bacteria and causing pain, infection, and tissue damage. Although it is a plant, it will not decompose naturally. The foxtail has to be physically removed, most likely by a professional depending on where in the body it ends up.
Look out for signs that a foxtail has infiltrated your dog:
- Head shaking
- Labored breathing
- Trouble urinating
- Irritable bowel
- Signs of pain
Basically, if you notice a change in your dog’s behavior and it’s spring/early summer, then before you do anything, try to eliminate foxtails as the cause.
Protecting your dog from foxtails
If you want to out-fox the foxtail, you have to first familiarize yourself with these sneaky suckers so that you can spot them on your next walk, then avoid that area at all costs. Staying far away from foxtails is the only foolproof method of prevention. However, depending on where you live, avoiding foxtails may be easier said than done. Every time your dog comes back from a walk or playtime outside, give it a thorough grooming and combing. Be sure to carefully check the ears and nose, and in between the toes. You may need a pair of tweezers, but removing the foxtails before they become too lodged in your dog and cause serious infection and pain can save your dog a lot of trauma.