By Sophie Liu, DVM
Can you hear it? That gentle whoosh of a summer breeze? That happy pant of your dog relaxing under the summer skies? It’s nearly summer in the Bay Area, and that means it’s prime foxtail season!
“Foxtails” are the colloquial term for the seed-dispersal unit of a common weed, often called “grass awns” in other parts of the country. Here in California, our foxtail weeds have a particularly sharp and stiff structure that allows them to penetrate through thick fur and puncture into skin. Once foxtails penetrate the skin barrier, they can travel straight through underlying tissues and embed themselves deep into your pet’s orifices or soft tissue structures. Common areas where foxtails can get stuck: your dog’s nose, ears, mouth/throat, anogenital openings, between toes.
Unfortunately, once inside the body, foxtails usually require immediate veterinary care to manually remove them. To protect your dog from foxtails, here are a few tips:
• Avoid grassy areas with high density of foxtail weeds. Due to the recent rains and resulting massive weed growth, many parks in Northern California have areas with overgrown foxtails. Train your eye to look for them. Until these areas are cleared, it’s best to avoid these areas.
• Consider using foxtail guards, such as the “Outfox Field Guard.” While this won’t protect other parts of your dog’s body, it can better protect his face while still allowing him to play ball and pant normally.
• Always check your dog for any ticks or foxtails after an outdoor excursion. This is a great time to teach your dog that handling equals treats and fun times!
• Discover alternative activities to do, such as fun training classes in indoor arenas. For more information on training tips and classes, please visit: https://www.sfspca.org/behavior
• And as always, when in doubt, contact your veterinarian if you think your pet has had a run-in with those pesky foxtails!
Photo Credit: @baxterthebrit