Foxtails & Spring Hazards

Keep Your Dog Safe from the Foxtail Spring Hazard

If you own a dog, rather than choose this admittedly pretty plant for your lawns, eradicate it from your landscape. The foxtail includes a burr that buries itself in your pet’s fur, skin, and paws. Worse still, they often require a vet to remove them.

The prevalence of foxtails means you need to carefully choose where you take your dog for a walk. These plants are popular choices in Durham and Chapel Hill for landscaping.

These grasses acquired their name from their reproductive structures which resemble a fox’s tail.  These plants cause problems for pets as they mature and develop the “tail” which contains a bristled spike. As temperatures warm, this spike dries out and becomes brittle. Once brittle, it segments and each segment contains a sharp seed and awns.

The seeds from this plant tend to invade dogs, which generally happens in three ways:
- A dog inhales the seed and it becomes trapped in its nose.
- The seed embeds itself in the dog’s ear.
- A dog steps on the seed and it becomes trapped between his toes.

If the seeds are not removed quickly, they can enter the dog’s body.  Surgery can be required to remove these seeds once well inside a dog. Any foreign object can cause an infection, but this is especially true for objects embedded in an area like the paw.

Keep your dog away from foxtails, if possible. If your dog does play in or eat foxtails, inspect their paws and body afterward. If the dog exhibits symptoms such as an upset stomach, shaking his head, squinting, sneezing, coughing, or gagging, call your vet. If your dog is repeatedly licking a paw or other body part, examine it and pluck out the burr, if visible. Otherwise, visit the vet. Contact New Hope Animal Hospital if your pet needs foxtail removal in the Durham or Chapel Hill area.

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