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By Dr. Emily Wilson
The Foxtail plant is a grass-like weed that grows abundantly in the Western half of the United States. These seeds are small enough for dogs to inhale and sticky enough to cling to fur. If foxtails aren’t removed from your pet’s coat after an outdoor adventure, they can embed themselves in your pet’s skin, causing a painful infection or even death if left untreated.
Some of the most common areas of the body to see foxtails are (in no particular order):
Observe your pet. If foxtails become embedded in between paw pads, look for limping or excessive paw-licking. If foxtails are embedded in your pets skin, look for a small puncture wound in their coat. Or you may see a small lump under the skin that looks slightly red or pink, and if infected, may be warm to the touch. If foxtails are embedded in your pet's eye, your pet will likely be uncomfortable and pawing at their face. You will notice tears or discharge in the affected eye and/or the eye will begin swelling shut.
Some unlucky pets actually inhale foxtails through their nose or mouth, which can be very painful and dangerous for your pet. If foxtails are inhaled through the nose, look for excessive sneezing. If foxtails are swallowed, your pet will dry-heave or attempt to vomit to get rid of the seed.
Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to prevent your pet from coming in contact with foxtails, but a quick inspection after an outdoor adventure is a great start. Grab a fine tooth comb and run it through your their fur. Start at one end of the body and work your way towards the other, making sure not to miss their underbelly, groin area, armpits, in between each toe, in both ears, around their eyes, and under their tail.
If your pet has foxtails embedded in their skin, it’s important to have them removed by your veterinarian as soon as possible. If your pet is in pain or an infection is present, your veterinarian will be able to prescribe medication to fix them up.
We’re here for you! If you have questions or concerns, chat with us anytime. If your pet is showing symptoms of embedded foxtails, reach out to us ASAP in the Fuzzy app and we’ll help you determine how urgently your pet needs to be seen. Fuzzy veterinarians are available to come to your home and perform foxtail extractions, but if the symptoms are severe, we recommend you head to a full-service veterinarian or emergency veterinary hospital as soon as possible.