Residents are being reminded to keep an eye out for foxtail barley. The perennial weed has needle-like barbed seeds that can get caught in a dogs’ fur, paws, mouth and throat.
While foxtails are often caught in the fur and can be quickly removed, they can also migrate internally if left unfound through several common routes such as the nose, ears, and eyes. They can even penetrate through the skin or through a pet’s genital openings. If these problematic hitch-hiking seeds find their way inside of a pet’s body, they can cause serious problems. Once internalized, foxtails can wreak havoc on the body, causing internal abscesses and even infections of the bones around the spinal cord. There have been reports of foxtails lodging in the abdominal organs or lungs.
Foxtail troubles are more common with dogs than cats, especially hunting dogs, as they are more likely to be outdoors in areas where exposure to these grasses is likely.
While foxtails aren’t always easy to spot, their presence can be noticeable through various telltale symptoms, depending on their location in the body. Be mindful of the following symptoms during foxtail season:
- Nose: violently sneezing and pawing at the nose, and sometimes a bloody nose.
- Eyes: rubbing the eye, squinting and pain, excessive tearing or discharge, or an eye “glued shut.”
- Ears: head tilt or violent shaking of the head from side to side, pain, discharge, or odor.
- Mouth/Throat: gagging, loud coughing, difficulty swallowing (you will notice your pet having “exaggerated swallowing” movements, like when you have a sore throat), and possibly increased odor.
- Paws: continuous licking of the paw or pad, or the appearance of a swollen “bubble” between the toes, or a small “hole” in the skin which is indicative of a draining tract, which is the path the foxtail is taking under the skin (pictured)
- Under skin: formation of sores or abscesses.
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