got his name because he loves to slash through the tall
grass on his way to the river. The 2-year-old golden
retriever-cross lives for his swims. Unfortunately,
after his last river plunge, he came up limping.
Maggie initially found nothing when she examined Slash’s
right leg, but recently has noticed swelling between two
of his toes. Maggie believes a foxtail is to blame, but
she can find nothing other than the swelling. She will
take Slash to the veterinarian, but wants advice on
preventing foxtail problems.
think a foxtail awn is responsible for Slash’s limp,
and that it has migrated through the skin. The major
problem with foxtails is they seldom back out, but
instead progress forward.
is a collective term representing the seed awns of
several different types of nonnative grasses found
almost exclusively in California. These grasses have
taken over almost every open grassland in our state and
provide nothing beneficial in return. These awns have a
sort of bullet shape with tiny barbs, which is why they
do not usually back out. I am sure many of you have
gotten these foxtails stuck in your shoes, socks and
clothing when hiking through grass fields. Dogs,
however, are not protected by shoes, socks and clothing.
wound will probably need to be surgically opened and the
foxtail removed. Once it is removed and the bacterial
infection treated with antibiotics, the problem will be
over. He also may have foxtails in one or both of his
ears. This is a common occurrence, so both ears should
be checked. In fact, foxtails can show up in almost any
orifice in a dog’s body. I have, as have many of my
colleagues, removed foxtails from ear canals, nasal
passages, rectums, vaginas and, in several cases, from
the lungs. Sometimes the foxtails can make their own
orifice and burrow through the skin after becoming
attached to the hair coat. They’re also a problem in
cats. I can recall one time removing 20 foxtails from
the nasal passage of a cat.
question that begs an answer is what can be done to
prevent a foxtail invasion. We can disallow trips to the
outdoors. Of course, that is out, especially for a dog
like Slash who lives to romp through the fields to the
river. After a trip to the great outdoors, especially if
it includes foxtail country, my recommendation is that
pet owners examine dogs for foxtails. Check the ears,
between the toes, between the legs and the body, and
anywhere else on the hair coat. Remove them before they
become a problem.