In a article published in the 2010 summer issue of The Bark, veterinarian Nancy Kay warned dog owners about the dangers of foxtails, especially in summer and late summer/fall months. In North America, this is the season for foxtail troubles. Foxtails are the top of grass stalks that distribute the seeds of the plant. Late in the summer, they grow dry and brittle, and their little sharp “paper airplane” shaped seed pods are primed to burrow wherever they can. Foxtails are irritating to people, as they burrow into clothing and hair and are very itchy. But they are even more of a nuisance and health hazard for dogs. Foxtails are easily caught in dog fur, and can burrow into the skin if left undetected. They can also easily make their way into a dog’s body through the nose, mouth and other exposed vulnerable areas. To make matters worse, once the are burrowed internally, they do not break down.
So, what can you do to prevent such problems? Obviously avoid fields of foxtails, and when clearing dry foxtail-covered grass from your backyard, don’t just mow the grass down — rake trimmings up too and dispose of them. Keep areas around your dog’s paw pads nicely trimmed so that you can see if anything is stuck in them. For more tips and information, check out the following articles:
Nancy Kay, The Bark: Protecting your dog from Foxtails
Emily Green, L.A. Times: Worst weeds for dogs? Foxtails are just a start
Wikipedia: Description of Foxtails
A few years ago, my Welsh Terrier Tinker showed symptoms of digestive problems. My vet finally did an X-ray and detected a tennis-ball-sized mass in her abdomen, which he removed immediately. Since it was not cancerous, he explored and dissected it. He found a foxtail at the center of the ball.
Really, really nasty stuff. But Tinker lived on to the ripe old age of 14+.
Thank you for this information, Emma. I don't think there's anywhere I take Emmadale that have foxtails but I'll keep on the look out!
Thank you for sharing that story Mary — wow!
Anthony, there are definitely foxtails all around — I took those pics the day we hung out at the park!