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Foxtails and Dogs

Look out for foxtails and burrs on your dog during the hot summer months

MetPet.com Staff Writer

Foxtails are the seeds of wild barley.  They are light golden in color, shaped like tiny arrowheads and can work their way into the oddest places.  Foxtails and other seeds are designed to stick to moving animals.  They are an ingenious way for plants to spread their offspring widely. Because of their shape, foxtails get into fur, flesh and openings like ears and noses but can't back themselves out. 

Foxtails that are not removed can actually become encased in cysts inside the flesh.  Because of their streamlined shape and color, they are most difficult to see in long-haired, light-colored dogs. 

We have seen dogs who have inhaled them or gotten them stuck deep within their paws.  They can get imbedded into the flesh or work their way into the respiratory system and require a visit to the vet to remove. 

If your dog does go through dry grass, be sure to check him from top to bottom once you get home.  This includes feeling between the toes right up to where they meet the rest of the foot.   This may be uncomfortable for your dog, but foxtails are very commonly found between the toes and in the hair around the pads.  Running a brush or comb through the fur will remove most of the foxtails but you may have to take a pair of blunt-tipped grooming scissors to cut out mats.  If your dog has been running through a field full of a wide variety of plants, removing seeds can resemble a science experiment.  Some seeds may be large, round, pointed balls while others have tiny heads and very long, twisted tails. 

Foxtails that are relatively soft can be very difficult to distinguish from hair.  You may have to go through your dog's fur several times just to make sure you are not missing anything.  If your dog shakes his head, limps, or chews at his fur, he may be showing you just where the foxtails are.  If you have been through a meadow full of dried grasses, it may take several grooming sessions over a period of days to find all of the foxtails and burrs.  Even if you have gone over a section of fur, it is a good idea to return to it later just to make sure. 

It is best to avoid areas full of dry, overgrown grass.  Besides foxtails, you may have to spend hours taking out burrs and other types of seeds that have become matted in your dog's fur.  Multi-pointed burrs make incredibly complex mats with your dog's undercoat and seeds shaped like tiny corkscrews work their way into your dog's coat and irritate the skin. 

In addition to foxtails and burrs, dry fields can aggravate allergies in dogs.  A 15 minute romp in the wrong field can lead to hours of grooming so it is best to avoid dry meadows and fields during the late spring and summer. 

Related Information:
Bathing the Dog
 

 

 
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