Foxtails - Extremely Dangerous


"..watch out for foxtails when the weather gets warmer...

""Foxtail" is a generic term that's often applied to several species of wild grasses, but is specifically associated with a type of wild barley (Hordeum jubatum) that is indigenous to the western United States.

"Foxtail is common all up and down the West Coast but has also spread across the country... populating all but seven states: Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. It's also found throughout most of Canada, as well as in some areas of Mexico.

"The weed tends to grow in grassland areas and is common along roadsides, trails, and areas that include human disturbance, such as dumps.. flatlands and Western prairies, and in irrigated meadows.

""..seed heads look like a fox's tail -- hence the name...

".. each bristle is covered with an infinite number of microscopic barbs [awns]...

"Once inside the dog, awns continue to burrow inward. If they're not found and removed quickly, they can literally disappear, because they won't show up on an x-ray. An awn that has crept into the dog will continue to travel throughout her body, often leaving a hollow tract behind it, until it either comes up against something it can't go through (such as bone), or pops out through the skin...

"Foxtails cannot be absorbed by the dog's body, nor can they be broken down or digested...

"The two main dangers posed by foxtails are foreign-body reactions and infections...

"What's really dangerous is when they penetrate the body wall through the chest wall or the abdominal wall.. these cases are life-threatening...

"..an awn lodged in the nose can be deadly serious if not removed. If foxtails get deep into the nasal passages, they can continue to travel into the brain and cause seizures or death...

"Foxtails can also cause tissue necrosis.. then something like aspergillosis (a common fungus) can grow in dead tissues... Once established, it's pretty devastating; it can be as serious as cancer.

"Foxtails in the ears can rupture eardrums or cause chronic ear infections, while foxtails in the eye can lead to blindness. Inhaled foxtails can affect the lungs...

How to Prevent

  • "Avoid foxtail-infested areas in "foxtail season" -- from early summer.. until the fall or winter wet season...

  • "If you must walk your dog in areas where foxtails grow, keep him on leash and on the trail to help reduce his chances of encoutering the awns.

  • "..don't allow him to play fetch anywhere near foxtails...

  • "..in your yard, keep the plants mowed.. to help prevent them going to seed. Better yet, pull the grasses by hand...

  • "If your dog is long-haired, trim all the hair between his toes, over the top of his toes and feet, from his legs, around his ears, his vent, and his belly...

  • "Keep your dog well-groomed. Foxtails readily work their way into mats, but can be easily brushed out of a clean, untangled coat.

  • "Most importantly, after every outdoor experience in a foxtail zone, check your dog from head to toe. Examine the space between each and every toe andunderneath his feet. Look in his armpits, groin, anal area, and ears

  • "Keep alert for suspicious lumps, bumps, or swellings on your dog. Look for limping or excessive licking of toes, head-shaking, sneezing, or a glued-shut eye

  • "If your dog exhibits any of the symptoms of having a foxtail [see below], take him to a vet. as soon as possible--that day!

Symptoms

EYES - "squinting, discharge, an eye glued shut...

EARS - "Head tilting or head shaking...

NOSE - "Violent, explosive, serial sneezing. The may be a slight bloody discharge...

MOUTH/THROAT - "hacking, gagging, difficulty swallowing when eating or drinking...

PAWS - "continual licking of the foot or pad, bumpy swelling between the toes, or a small hole...

SKIN - "a hard bump or lump; may include a small hole in its center... " (Holland, C.C. "Fiendish Foxtails." Whole Dog Journal, Aug. 2003, 12-15).


Colby Glass, MLIS