Foxtails: Get Rid of Them Now

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If your yard has foxtails, get rid of them now. Foxtails are of utmost concern to dog guardians because they can pose a serious threat to your dog’s life. This is particularly true for long-haired dogs.

A foxtail is a barbed cluster of grass that allows the plant to spread its seeds. The barbs in this cluster cause the foxtail to cling to fur. When your dog moves, it causes the foxtail to burrow into the fur. The foxtail moves in only one direction, which in this case means closer to the skin. Most of us have had to pull them from our socks and garden gloves. If they penetrate garden gloves (even those made of suede), you can appreciate how easily they can penetrate your dog’s skin.

They can also enter the nostrils and ears of your pet (another reason you shouldn’t let your dog stick its head out of the window while you are driving). When foxtails enter the body, they can endanger your dog’s life. When they enter your dog’s nose, the air flow of the breathing can force the foxtail further in toward the soft tissues and this, along with muscular movements, can allow it to enter organs, which can lead to infection.

You should regularly check your dog’s paws, especially the pads and between the toes. If your dog is sneezing and pawing at its nostrils, this could be a sign of embedded foxtails. If it is pawing the area around its eyes, there could be a foxtail lodged under the eyelid. If your dog is excessively shaking its head or favoring an ear, this could be another sign that a foxtail has entered your dog’s body. If a foxtail becomes lodged in the ear, it can puncture the eardrum and enter the middle ear. A discharge can also be an indicator of an embedded foxtail.

What can you do if you suspect your dog has been affected by foxtails? They are fairly simple to remove when they are in your dog’s fur either by gentle brushing or pulling them out individually. However, if they have entered the nostrils or ear canals, you must get your dog to a vet for proper removal before more serious damage occurs.

What can you do about foxtails? If they are in your yard, get rid of them now. They are easily pulled out after a rainstorm or when you water your yard. If there are foxtails near an alley, a park, or in a vacant lot where you walk your dogs, make a point of getting rid of them by good, old-fashioned pulling. It’s easier and better to get them while they are still green. In spring and summer, they dry out, become yellowish, and potentially more dangerous. If you are using your weed trimmer, remember to carefully pick up and dispose of foxtails properly.

© 2010 Bruce Malter, PawPassion.org

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