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Pet Foxtails: Problems and Preventions in Campbell & Saratoga

Do you take precautions to protect your pet from foxtails? Foxtails can be very dangerous for your dog or cat. Whenever your furry family member spends time outside, it’s wise to check and make sure that no foxtail seed heads have attached themselves to your pet.

What are foxtails, and why do they pose such a risk? The foxtail is a grass-like weed, found primarily in the Western United States. Foxtails are plentiful in spring and summer, especially in fields, meadows, and brushy areas. They can even show up in lawns, though, and even some sidewalk cracks.

Foxtails have tough seeds with a fishhook-like shape. If your pet comes into contact with a foxtail, the seeds will stick to the animal’s fur. They can become stuck to dogs’ and cats’ fur, between their toes, in their ears, up their noses, in and around their mouths, and on their eyelids. Sometimes it’s hard to see them, but they can burrow into the pet’s skin and work their way into the body. This can result in serious problems, including abscesses, infection, punctured lungs, organ damage, and even death.

Especially if your pet has long ears or curly hair, it’s important to thoroughly inspect the fur after the animal has been outside. Use a brush as necessary, looking closely for pointy foxtail awns in thick or feathery parts of the fur. Look carefully in the face and ears, and in and around the mouth and gums. Check paw pads and between the toes for foxtails. Remove any foxtails you can easily reach, using tweezers. However, if the foxtail is embedded deeply in your pet’s skin, or the area around it is red or swollen, call the vet. Foxtails can be very dangerous, because they won’t come out on their own and can work their way into the lungs, eardrums, spine, and even brain.

Even if you don’t see foxtails, there are some signs that your pet may have gotten into them.

  • Paws: Swelling or limping can indicate an embedded foxtail, as can excessive licking.
  • Ears: Head shaking, ear scratching, and excessive vocalization warrant a trip to the vet for a look inside the ear with a special scope.
  • Eyes: Red, bloodshot eyes, swelling, squinting, discharge, and pawing could mean a foxtail is lodged in the eye.
  • Nose: Discharge from the nose, or sudden, frequent, intense sneezing could indicate a foxtail.
  • Skin: Redness, inflammation, or a bump could be a foxtail.
  • Genitals: Persistent licking of the genitals can mean there’s a foxtail.

To prevent foxtail problems, keep your pets out of overgrown, brushy areas and pull any foxtails out of your yard. If you do have an unfortunate foxtail encounter, trust Reed Animal Hospital. Our goal is to help you and your pet enjoy a healthy, fulfilling life together, so our extraordinary team offers a wide range of services. For more information or to make an appointment, call us in Campbell at 408-369-1788, or in Saratoga at 408-647-2906.