How to keep your pets safe during foxtail season

How To Keep Your Pets Safe During Foxtail Season

Along with the joys of summertime, come the problematic Foxtails: a weed with a barbed, hardened end. They are extremely common, and a hazard for dogs and outdoor cats, often getting inhaled or lodged in the skin. Foxtails grow year-round, but are especially dangerous in the warmer months when they dry out. Because they are designed to burrow further and further into an object with each movement, Foxtail migration can cause serious and potentially deadly consequences. They can cause abscesses, infections, and can even get lodged and migrate in abdominal organs and lungs. The most common foxtail problems we see are foxtails up the nose, in the paws, and in the ears. 

You can take steps to avoid foxtail issues by removing any that are growing in your yard, but with foxtails so prevalent in neighborhood parks and open spaces, it’s difficult to avoid them completely. 

Giving your pet a quick once-over after spending time outside may help you spot foxtails before they become embedded and cause pain or irritation. For dogs with longer coats, such as Golden Retrievers, I recommend going over them with a fine-toothed comb or brush and removing any foxtails that might be stuck. Also, check their ears and paws.

How to Deal With Foxtails, and What to Look for
They frequently become embedded in the sensitive skin around the toes, causing swelling. Owners should check for foxtails if they notice any limping and/or frequent licking of the area.
Other prime areas for foxtails to penetrate the skin include the armpits and genitalia. Once foxtails are in the skin, they tend to migrate, causing inflammation and bacterial infection in the soft tissues. Animals with foxtails under the skin can be seen licking the affected area constantly. Sometimes a red bump will be seen on the skin.

Some of the signs your dog may have a foxtail are as follows:
Foxtail in Nose: Violent sneezing, pawing at the nose, and nasal discharge (sometimes bloody) can be seen
Foxtail in Eyes: Squinting, painful, excessive tearing or eyes look “glued shut”
Foxtail in Ears: Head tilt, shaking head, pawing at ear
Foxtail in Paws: Continous licking of paw/pad, holding paw up, swollen spot- drainage tract
Foxtail under Skin: Formation of sores or Abscess

If your pet goes wandering through fields or overgrown areas this summer, it’s important to check them regularly for foxtails, before it causes serious damage. We have seen several cases already, and we advise pet owners not to ignore lots of head shaking, sneezing, gagging, or paw irritation that are the symptoms of an embedded awn.
If your pet is showing any of those signs, don’t wait—schedule an appointment online, or call us at (415)383-7700.