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Beware of Foxtails This Summer

Foxtail grass is a species of tall, green, fuzzy, wild grasses that have a top that looks like a bird’s feather. In the summer, this grass gets dry and the seeds can blow, fall, or be torn off. If these seeds get up your pet’s ears or nose, they can cause significant health dangers. Here’s a quick look at how to recognize foxtails, what to do if your pet ingests them, and how to prevent them from harming your pet.

Recognizing Foxtails

Foxtail grasses include several species of wild grasses, including wild barley. These grasses are indigenous to the Western United States, but have spread across the country. They grow in grassland areas along trailers, roadsides, fields, empty lots, and farms, as well as flatlands, salt marshes, and irrigated meadows. They look soft and bushy, and the top looks like a bird’s feather or a fox’s tail.

Why Foxtails are Such a Threat

As your pet runs through or explores grasses, he might get foxtail seeds tangled in its hair or coat. Your pet might also accidentally or purposefully ingest foxtail seeds. These seeds are designed to burrow, and have barbs that attach themselves to skin, orifices, tissues, and membranes. Dogs and cats can get foxtails between their toes, in their ears or nose, and even in their eyes and throats. These seeds burrow inward and can cause irritation, infection, tissue and organ damage, and death. Without quick intervention, your pet might not survive a foxtail invasion.

Preventing Injuries from Foxtails

The easiest way to prevent injuries from foxtail grass is to keep your pet away from it. Keep your pet leashed when you’re on walks, in parks, and near any grassy area. If you normally let your cat roam freely outside, you might consider keeping him inside or only allowing him supervised outdoor access during the summer.

If you suspect your pet has ingested foxtail seeds or grass, take him to an emergency veterinary clinic right away. The veterinarian might need to sedate your pet and remove lodged foxtail seeds to prevent infection, chronic illness, or death.