Be mindful of social distancing and foxtails when out with your dog during the pandemic



You’ve seen the memes on social media about dogs delighted that their humans are home with them 24/7 at this time of the global pandemic. Not only that, but for many, walking the dog, a daily approved outdoor activity, is the highlight of their day.


There are so many upsides to walking your pooch pal. Not only does it give your pup a chance to “social network” in the neighborhood, leaving its calling card; it’s great exercise for you. But with the warm weather comes some caution. It’s foxtail season and these grasses can pose a danger to your dog.


Foxtails grow at the top of grass stalks. They are most often found in open areas, including hiking trails, along roadsides and in overgrown parks. Foxtails get their name because they look like the tail of a fox, with layers of upward-facing spines protruding from the center.


Due to the unique shape of the seed, foxtails are designed to burrow. The seed slowly works its way deeper and deeper into soil and become lodged when the barb-like spines set in place. By doing so, the grasses spread. Furthermore, foxtails always move forward, never backward. This means, when it comes to dogs, foxtails move forward through the skin, forward through the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth and even forward through lungs, paws and genitalia.


One veterinarian interviewed by PetMD in “How to Protect Your Dog from Foxtails,” points out that foxtails pose severe damage to your dog’s health. He said, Dangers to dogs (and cats) include painful skin wounds with infections that can be difficult to eradicate as long as the foxtail is present. If foxtails penetrate the chest wall or are inhaled, they can cause life-threatening chest cavity infections or lung abscesses. If the foxtail penetrates the nervous system, they can lead to spinal cord abscesses causing pain and paralysis or brain abscesses.”


To protect your dog against foxtails, PedMD advises:


  • Know what a foxtail looks like (see photo with this post).

  • Get rid of any foxtails in your backyard.

  • Carefully monitor your dog when you walk. Try to avoid fields, parks and even parts of parking lots where foxtails grow.

  • When you return home, examine your dog’s coat carefully to make sure there are no foxtails. Use a brush or comb to locate any foxtails. Besides examining your dog’s coat, check between each toe and the paw pad, around the ears, armpits and tail.

  • Call your vet if your dog is excessively licking its paw shaking it head or squinting or holding an eye shut. Also, sneezing or nasal discharge can be a sign there is foxtail stuck in a nasal cavity. Female dogs may display difficulty urinating if there are foxtails in the vagina or urethra.

Foxtails are serious. Enjoy your walks, but be very vigilant when you take your dog for a walk.

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