Beware Foxtail Grass: A Threat to Your Pet

The warming spring temperature means great weather, blooming flowers, and spending more time outdoors with your family and pets.  It also means that many grasses are dispersing their seeds, and foxtails are in abundance.

Foxtail Awns

Foxtails are bushy looking spikes containing seeds in certain species of grass.  Their shape makes them perfect for clinging to your pet’s fur, your shoes, and your socks when out for a walk.  It is very important that you remove any foxtails on your pet’s coat, as they can pose a serious health risk.

Foxtails easily become embedded in fur, and have a way of working themselves deeper and deeper in to your pet’s coat, eventually reaching the skin.  Foxtails will pierce through in the skin, burrowing into soft tissues and organs.   The can even enter the body through nostrils or ear canals, and become further embedded in those pathways.

Embedded foxtails will cause infection, distress, hearing loss, trouble breathing, loss of vision, and even death.  Once foxtails have made their way inside your pet’s body, surgery is required to remove them.

So what can you do to keep your pets safe during foxtail season, but still enjoy time outside?

  • Remove any grass species with foxtails that grow in your yard
  • While out walking, stick to clear pathways and consider keeping pets leashed – also a good idea for snake season!
  • When you return home, give your pet’s coat a throughout examination, checking for hidden foxtails.  Your furbabies sure won’t mind the attention and pets!
    • Pay extra attention to areas like the underarm, between the toes, in nostrils, and in ear canals.
  • Go to the vet immediately if you notice any signs your pet may have an embedded foxtail.  Head-shaking, fits of sneezing, eye irratation, and visible skin irritation are all clues that there may be a foxtail that has become embedded.  You might also notice your pet generally being bothered or uncomfortable, or chewing on the affected area.

So go out, hit the trails, and enjoy the beauty of Spring!  Just be aware of those little stickers, pickers, and foxtails that could wreak havoc on your pet’s health.