As the summer days get hotter and dryer, the dreaded plant known as the foxtail becomes more prevalent in Northern California. While it may look like a harmless weed, this little plant can be deadly for dogs.
Found mainly in the western United States, you can find it anywhere there are plants growing; from parks and fields, to yards in the most upscale neighborhoods.
Unlike burrs and other plant irritants that can be easily be seen and removed from your pets coat, foxtails are much harder to detect and remove. The tiny head of the seed is barbed like a fish hook and only goes one way as it works its way into the flesh of the dog. Foxtails can make their way into a dog through many channels. They get into eyes, ear, nose, mouth, genitals or between the pads of their feet. They can even dig in through a patch of skin.
Once the foxtail has gotten into the skin, it cannot back out and it does not break down. It can travel through the dogs body, and end up in the lungs, spine, eardrums or even brain. Sadly, the small irritant can kill your pet if left untreated.
There are actually several types of plants that are referred to as foxtails. It is unassuming to look at, and can pass for “just a weed”. It is found almost anywhere in the Western US and is very common around the Sacramento area. Familiarize yourself with photos of the plant and if you see them while out on a walk with your dog, keep your dog away from them and get out of the area.
The best way to prevent injury to your dog from foxtails is to check them after every outing from May to December. Brush their coat and keep a lookout for the pointy dried seed pods. Also check between the toes and the pads of the feet, look around the face and ears, and check their mouth and gums. Be sure to check the genital areas too since these areas are closer to the ground and can easily be penetrated by the foxtails. If you do see any of them, carefully remove them with a tweezers.
If you are not sure you will be able to remove the entire foxtail, or there is redness or swelling in the area, get your dog to the vet right away.
You may not be able to see and actual foxtail in the body so carefully monitor your dogs for signs of a possible foxtail invasion. Limping or licking the foot area, eye redness, swelling, squinting or discharge, head shaking or ear scratching, nasal discharge or sneezing are just some of the possible reactions your dog may exhibit. Get them to the vet immediately to prevent the foxtails from burrowing further into the body and causing more damage or death.