Yesterday I was out walking with my friends during my lunch break, and the path that we walk was FILLED with foxtails. Which means…..foxtail season is upon us.
I know people walk their dogs along this path, and even let their dogs wonder off-leash on this path. Many may think that these foxtails are simply harmless, but the truth is, foxtails can be a big problem for our pets.
So I thought it would be a good time to start addressing the very costly issue of foxtails.
First, let’s start with, what is a foxtail?
Initially, they look like this…
But then they start to dry up, and they end up looking more like this…
The danger is that foxtails can become lodged in the feet, ears, nose, throat or skin of pets. In my experience, I have seen more dogs suffer from the wrath of foxtails than cats, but that doesn’t mean that cats won’t get them either.
What about foxtails makes them such a threat to dogs?
Well, the shape and nature of this dried diaspora is that it will actually become lodged in the tissues of where it decides to reside on your pet.
If you get one stuck to your clothing, this can quickly become uncomfortable and itchy, and it may take some work to get all the pieces dislodged from your clothes. Now imagine that same foxtail resting on your eardrum….and trying to get it out of your ear?
From Spring through the end of Summer, I have seen so many dogs come in and suffer from foxtails. Many get them lodged in their ears and getting it off of the ear drum (especially getting all the pieces) is not an easy task.
As you can see from the below photo, the ear drum of a dog is, as we often describe, “around the corner”, we can’t view their eardrum straight on, like a doctor can in our ears, there is a certain angle that is needed in order to view the eardrum of a dog. Now imagine trying to view that eardrum with an otoscope in one hand and a “grabber tool” in the other hand to remove the foxtail from the ear, while your patient is resisting because it is painful….and we can’t explain to them that the pain will be over once we get the foxtail out of their ear.
If the pet doesn’t let us remove the foxtail without giving them pain medicine or sedative, that may be necessary.
Not only are foxtails very painful to have on any membrane, but they can cause a lot of damage as well, because they are considered a foreign body by the dog’s immune system, they can result in an abscess.
In my experience, foxtail abscess are commonly seen in the feet.
As you can see in the below picture, this dog is suffering from a foxtail abscess. Now, the challenge for a veterinarian is to FIND the foxtail.
That’s right, the foxtail is not obvious, and the doctor now needs to probe for the abscess in the foot which is neither comfortable for your pet, nor is it an easy task. This may be another situation where your pet may need a sedative or pain medication in order to LET your veterinarian probe for the foxtail.
When dog’s present with foxtails in their throat or nose, which are often indicated by excessive coughing or sneezing, anesthesia is often necessary to remove these foxtails, which can soon lead to abscesses. Adding anesthesia to the equation will make this ordeal become much more expensive for the owner, but may be necessary to remove the foxtail.
The moral of the story here is that there are foxtails EVERYWHERE in Northern California and you need to pay attention to the places where you normally take your dog’s for walks (especially if you let them off leash), and please don’t forget to check your yard.
If you pet starts to excessively sneeze, cough, shake their head, or lick a wound on their foot….a foxtail removal may be in their future, so please seek a visit with your veterinarian.
Since I am only familiar with Northern California, I wonder….what other areas struggle with foxtails?