As the weather grows warmer, you and your dog may be enjoying longer walks around the neighborhood. Certain plants are also enjoying the seasonal changes. Unfortunately, with summer comes foxtail plants, which can prove dangerous to your dog. To ensure a safe and enjoyable walk, you should know how to identify foxtails.
What Are Foxtails?
Foxtails grow from the tops of grasses. Therefore they can grow anywhere that grass does, including in open fields, along sidewalks, and even in your own backyard. Foxtails have been spotted in every state west of the Mississippi and are gradually spreading across the entire United States. As the name suggests, they look like fox’s tails; they contain hairy appendages covered in sharp, sticky barbs. These barbs latch onto skin or fur and will eventually migrate inward, towards the internal organs.
How to Spot a Foxtail on Your Dog
Foxtails can burrow anywhere on your dog, but there are a few common places owners have found foxtails. Mainly, foxtails are found near or in openings such as the ears, eyelids, nose, or genitals. Dogs often also pick foxtails up with their feet. Watch to see if any of these areas are irritated. Is your dog pulling at their ears or licking their feet? Are they sneezing or coughing frequently? Watch for any unusual behavior, especially following a walk.
Foxtail wounds may also become infected, regardless of where on your dog they are embedded. Check for sores or visible discomfort. Dogs with an infected wound may also emit an unpleasant odor.
It is best to find foxtails as soon as possible. Always check your dog’s skin and coat all over immediately after every walk. A good way to do this is to give your dog a good brushing. This permeates the thick outer layers and can find anything hidden within your dog’s fur coat.
What to Do If You Find a Foxtail
Try to brush or pick the foxtail out. Foxtails in the coat have not yet embedded themselves in skin and thus have not yet caused a problem. If it will not budge, it may be embedded in the skin. This will require veterinary treatment as soon as possible. Foxtails often require surgery to remove. If they are not removed, it can lead to serious complications or even death.
Sometimes owners do not find the foxtail, but their dogs still require veterinary attention. If your dog has been acting strange or exhibiting symptoms associated with foxtails, call your vet.
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