The Dangers of Foxtails

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Filed in Cats, Dogs, Health, Safety

Foxtails are grass-like weeds that detach from the plant and stick to a person's clothes or an animal's hair due to the barbed fish-hook like structure. These plants pose a risk to pets as they can easily become lodged between a dog or a cat’s toes or in the ears, nose or eyes. Foxtails can also imbed in anal and genital cavities or in any part of the skin. They can cause abscesses and infections and can even migrate and lodge in internal organs. 

Signs A Pet May Have a Foxtail

  • A pet with a foxtail in its ear might rub its head on the ground or shake its head violently from side to side.
  • A pet with a foxtail in its eye might squint, experience watery eyes or paw at its face or eyes.
  • Compulsive licking and biting at a paw or around the groin or rectal area or whining and crying with no obvious or acute injury is another possible indication the pet may have a foxtail.
  • A foxtail in the pet’s nose may cause violent sneezing and even a bloody discharge from the nostrils.
  • Swallowed foxtails lodged in the throat will cause the throat to become inflamed and sore and the pet may swallow repeatedly, gulp, cough and gag.
  • No signs – Anytime a pet is exposed to dry grassy areas or outside in the summertime, there is a risk for foxtails. The best solution is prevention; upon completion of outdoor activities, owner should examine their pets (fur, ears, groin and toes) and remove foxtails that have not yet embedded in the skin.

Treatment

Do not try to remove the foxtail.  Instead, seek out veterinary medical care immediately.

Prevention

  • Remove weeds from your yard.
  • Keep your dog away from grassy weeds when walking, hiking or hunting.
  • Discourage your dogs from chewing on grasses.
  • Physical exams after outdoor activities
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