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Foxtails

  • Written by Jessica Allmendinger, DVM Medical Director, VCA Sno-Wood Animal Hospital
Foxtails (grass-awns, spear grass) are a common threat to dog and cat health. The small seeds have barbs which, when they find their way to the body of an animal, allow them to burrow deep into the skin, into ears or up noses. These seeds are irritating to the skin, and often cause significant infections.

Foxtails become the biggest threat in July and August when they dry out and disperse.

Symptoms of foxtail related disease:

• Skin irritation, redness or pus, often between the toes or on the belly or rump.

• Sudden head shaking or ear scratching.

• Sudden sneezing fits or a bloody nose.

• Rarely, when they travel up the lungs, coughing, fever or even bone infection can be seen.

How to protect against problems:

• If you see these in your yard, pull them out, preferably before they dry out and spread. Sweep up dried ones and discard.

• Check between your dog’s toes every night to be sure there are no seeds sticking into the hair or skin. This is especially important in dogs with fluffy hair between the toes.

• Of course, if you see a wound, or any of the signs listed above, contact a veterinarian.

If you have any questions about foxtails please ask!

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