This summer is a bad one for foxtails, which you have likely noticed if you’ve been venturing outdoors. Many meadows, nature paths and parks are filled with the feather-like grass. While these plants may look innocent enough, the seeds are actually quite dangerous, and can be fatal, to pets. At Los Banos Veterinary Center, we see a handful of serious foxtail cases a year, so wanted to share some more information to keep you well-informed during these summer months.
Foxtails are dangerous.
While the actual plant isn’t necessarily harmful, the seeds attached have spikes that are designed by nature to attach to an unknowing passersby so the plant can spread as the animal or host moves from location to location. What makes these spikes dangerous to pets, is the fact that they are barbed like a fishhook and can become lodged in the body. These seeds can cause abscesses and can even migrate to the heart and lungs in more severe situations.
Seek veterinary care if you notice a warning sign.
Since dogs are naturally curious creatures, it isn’t uncommon for them to sniff things that are appealing to them. That’s why these seeds oftentimes enter through the nasal passages. If a dog has come in contact with his nose, he or she will display signs of sneezing, bloody nose or itching the snout. Foxtail seeds can lodge themselves into other tight places, such as the ear and in between toes. Licking, rubbing or itching in these areas can be a warning sign. Additional watch outs include rubbing or watery eyes or discharge.
If your dog comes in contact with foxtails and is displaying the warning signs, seek veterinary care immediately and keep your pet calm. Oftentimes, the more a pet moves, the deeper the fishhook barb of the seed can embed into their skin, fur or body orifices.
These encounters can be prevented.
When recognized early, many of the foxtail encounters we see are treatable, but time can be of the essence. For many pets, exposure to foxtails can be prevented. After returning from outdoor time, groom your pet with a brush to remove any "straggling” seeds that are caught in the fur. Additionally, this gives you a chance to look for sensitive areas or rashes. If you see tall grass on a walk, keep your pet leashed and avoid the area.
When spending time outdoors, please be prepared to identify harmful plants and have a treatment plan in mind should contact be unavoidable. If your pet seems to come in contact with a foxtail, please give Los Banos Veterinary Center a call for assistance