Many dogs love to take a romp through the grass during the summer. Unfortunately, many pet owners are unaware of the hidden danger that may be lurking there: foxtail.
A foxtail is a small spike or spike cluster of a grass that serves to that serves several plants as a seed dispersal unit to help propagate and spread growth. Some grasses that produce a foxtail are themselves called “foxtail”.
Foxtails are dangerous because the sticky grass clusters are designed to travel in one direction as they burrow into a dog’s fur and skin. Once embedded, then don’t come out without intervention.
- Foxtails frequently get into a dog’s ear canal where they can cause pain and infections, and can lead to physical disruptions, including deafness.
- They can also work their way into the middle ear where muscular movements cause the foxtails to continue to burrow through soft tissues and organs, which in some cases can result in death.
Dogs also frequently inhale them through their nostrils, causing them to sneeze violently for a day.
- Once they get past the portion of the nasal cavity, the dog will no longer sneeze, but the foxtail remains and continues to move into the body.
- It can work its way to the junction where nasal cavity and oral cavity come together and then be swallowed. From there, the foxtail cluster can puncture the gastrointestinal tract, or, hopefully, it may just be pooped out.
When they get stuck in the fur, foxtail clusters can work their way through a dog’s fur and burrow into the skin.
- If stuck in the feet, they can work their way into the body and tunnel up the leg.
- When stuck in other places, they can work their way into the abdominal or thoracic cavity.
At some point, they can either get blocked by a wall of cells and eventually be eliminated from the body, or they can travel through the body causing more damage, such as infections.
Combing can help remove foxtails, but the most potentially dangerous foxtails are commonly found in easily missed areas of the body, including:
- The “armpit” area between a dog’s legs and body
- Between the toes
- In nostrils and ear canals, as mentioned earlier
These areas should be routinely examined for signs of infiltration, such as a discharge from secondary bacterial infection.
The best way to prevent your dog from picking up foxtails is, of course, to avoid them. If your pet does run around grassy areas that may hold foxtails, detection and early removal is the best treatment.
- You should groom your dog after every walk and pick out any visible clusters.
- If the foxtail becomes deeply embedded, or if your dog displays signs of pain when you try to remove them, take it to a vet to have the burr removed.
- Foxtail removal can be very painful, so expect your dog to be anesthetized to have it removed if it’s embedded in a tract, in the skin, in the ear canal, or in the nose.