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Watch Out for Foxtail Grass This Summer

Foxtail grasses are a species of wild grasses or weeds, including wild barley. It is indigenous to the western United States, but has migrated across the country and is now common in almost every state. If your pet is exposed to foxtail seeds, they can burrow into his skin, eyes, ears, nose, and throat, causing irritation, infection, chronic illness, and death. Here’s a guide to recognizing foxtail grasses, signs of exposure in pets, and what to do if your pet has been exposed.

How to Recognize Foxtail Grasses

Foxtail grasses are tall, green or yellow, fuzzy, and have a bushy top that looks like a bird’s feather or a fox’s tail. If you know what wild wheat or barley looks like, you will recognize foxtail grasses as a similar species. You can find foxtails growing in empty lots, grassland areas, along roadsides and trails, and on the edges of salt marshes, flatlands, and irrigated meadows.

Signs of Exposure to Foxtails

As foxtail grasses dry out in the summer, they become brittle and are easily broken. If your pet runs through a field containing foxtail grasses, the seed heads can break off and attach to your pet’s hair, coat, skin, paws, ears, or eyes. Your pet can also ingest these seeds accidentally or purposefully. Signs of exposure include:

●      The presence of barbs or seed pods attached to the skin, hair, between the toes, in the ears, or elsewhere.

●      Skin irritation, redness, and hair loss.

●      Swelling, inflammation, and drainage.

●      Licking the affected area.

●      Limping.

●      Head shaking, scratching or pawing at the ear, ear drainage or redness.

●      Violent sneezing, blood or mucous drainage from the nose.

●      Dry, hacking coughing, gagging, frequent hard swallowing.

●      Loss of appetite, weight loss, trouble breathing, fatigue.

If you suspect that your pet has been exposed to foxtails, take him to a veterinary clinic as soon as possible. Your veterinarian will need to examine your pet for signs of foxtail exposure, take a CT scan, or complete an endoscopy. Foxtails that have burrowed deeply will need to be removed surgically.

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