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Foxtail plants are a type of weed grass that can cause serious problems for dogs.

The seeds of these pesky summer-blooming weeds are designed to burrow into the soil. If they stick to your pet's fur and literally burrow into the skin, it can cause pain, infection, and sometimes more serious problems. Foxtails can also be inhaled, put in the ears, swallowed and put in the paws.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to protect your dog from the dangers of foxtails. Here's a breakdown of what the foxtail plant is and why it's dangerous for your dog.

What is a foxtail? What do fox tails look like?

Foxtails – also called grass seeds, midge seeds, timothy, cheat grass, June grass, downy brome or other local names – are annual summer grasses. They start growing in spring and are in full bloom by summer. They die in winter.

The tip is shaped like a foxtail and has seeds arranged in spiny clusters with spines facing backwards. Spikes and barbs allow for a one-way path, which is great news for foxtails, bad news for dogs.

Here are some pictures of the foxtail plant:

Where are foxtails found?
Foxtails can be found anywhere in Europe. They are most often found in these places, such as:

  • Hiking trails
  • Parks
  • Meadows on the coast
  • Open grass fields

Although they are less common in urban areas, they can still be found in areas where grass grows out of control.

When the weather is warm, the foxtail dries up and sticks to everything it passes by - including dog hair.

Why are foxtails dangerous for dogs?

Foxtails can attach to any part of your dog's body and start the bathing process. They are usually affected:

  • Eyes
  • Eyelids
  • Ears
  • Smurfs
  • The interior of the muzzle
  • Paws

In some cases, foxtails can burrow through the skin and find their way into the spine or chest and abdominal cavity. Terrible! Once inside, the foxtail continues to rub in, bringing bacteria and dirt with it.

This can lead to much more serious conditions as internal organs can be affected. The foxtail will continue to cause problems until it is removed.

In some cases, advanced diagnostic tests and procedures may be necessary to identify and remove the foxtail.

What are the signs that a dog has a foxtail problem?

If you live in an area where foxtails are abundant, you can identify them by the following signs:

  • Shaking of the head
  • Limping
  • "Pat" on the face
  • Sniffing
  • Sneezing
  • Bleeding nose
  • Excessive licking of the body area

Other signs may appear one to several days later. These may include:

  • Bumps
  • Problems with passing stool
  • Areas of redness or tenderness
  • Inflammation
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Decreased appetite

At worst, foxtail can reach vital organs, including the lungs, spinal cord or brain, heart, and abdominal organs, causing symptoms specific to that organ. In very bad cases, surgery may be needed to remove the foxtails or to treat an infection caused by the embedded foxtails in the body itself.

How to remove foxtails from a dog?

Early removal of the foxtail is important. If you live in an area with foxtails, ALWAYS check on your dog after you come back from a walk.

If you notice a foxtail on your dog's fur or skin, you can try to remove it with tweezers.

If you notice any of the above signs or signs that foxtail has penetrated the skin or entered an opening on your dog's body, take your dog to the vet.

Attempting to remove the foxtail from the body cavity yourself can result in an incomplete removal where pieces of the foxtail are still embedded in your dog's skin and are ready to burrow even deeper. A foxtail can travel a long distance through body cavities, so it is important to remove the ENTIRE foxtail.

How to prevent foxtails from harming your dog?

There are a few ways you can avoid foxtails and keep your dog safe.

  1. Dogs with long hair are more likely to pick up these pesky plant 'parasites'. Take a good look at it every time you return from a walk.

2. Working dogs or dogs that spend a lot of time in tall grass can be fitted with a commercially available vest that covers and protects the chest and abdomen.

3. Avoid areas prone to foxtails to prevent injury to your dog. These are usually abandoned meadows, meadows by the sea, etc.

4. Use a short leash when walking your dog.

5. If you have foxtails growing in your yard, make a plan to remove them.

By LovingPaw


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