Dangers of Foxtails

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foxtail weed


This is the time of year for most of us to think about where we take our pets for walks or spend our time outdoors.

As innocent as it may sound, foxtail is a tall slender grass topped with a spiky bristle that looks like wheatgrass that grows in vacant lots, along the edges of lawns as weeds, and in the wild in big, open fields.

There are many different varieties that grow all around the United States.

The microscopic bristles get caught very easily in your sock or in your pets coat, often while you’re out hiking or going for your daily walk.

All foxtails have a hardened tip, sometimes called a callus, and retrorse barbs, pointing away from the tip of the callus.
The spikelet clusters of foxtails are adapted for animal dispersal: The foxtails disarticulate easily, the barbs cause the foxtail to cling to fur, and movement of the animal causes the foxtail to burrow into the fur.

Foxtails can become a health hazard for dogs and other domestic animals, and a nuisance for people which can result in a hefty vet bill if not carefully monitored.

In dogs and other domestic animals the foxtails can become irreversibly lodged. Foxtails can also enter the nose and ear canals. In all these cases, the foxtail can physically enter the body and muscular movements or, in the case of nostrils, air flow, can cause the foxtails to continue to burrow through soft tissues and organs, causing infection and physical disruption, which in some cases can result in death. In humans, foxtails can work through clothing, particularly fabric shoes and socks, causing discomfort to people while walking.

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Close up photo of foxtail-courtesy of wikipedia
A Practice to Follow After Your Outdoors Activities.


Combing of your pets fur removes foxtails along with burrs but potentially the most dangerous foxtails are found in areas easily missed like between the paws, ears and nostrils.

Inspect your pets coat thoroughly after your walk, including between the paws. If you find even the smallest sliver of foxtail, remove it instantly to prevent it from moving deeper in the body. If you cannot remove the foxtail your vet may need to remove it surgically and might prescribe antibiotics to avoid any infection.

Embedded foxtails are very painful to your pet and causes bleeding, but of even more of a concern is the fact that bacteria is often carried into the wound with the spike, and into the body as far as the spikes burrow. Foxtails can pierce the ear canal and have been found in the lungs, stomachs and small intestines of dogs. They can even penetrate through the brain.

Related infections can be very serious, particularly those that occur in the chest, and can even lead to death if left untreated.

Maltese Starz Newsletter
Bridgette, Woof woof.





May 2018
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