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Foxtail Grass: 5 Things You Need to Know

April 15, 2021
Did you know that foxtail grasses can be extremely dangerous to pets? These plants may look harmless, but they can cause serious—and even life-threatening—issues. In this article from Fairfield Animal Hospital, a Cy-Fair veterinarian lists some key facts about foxtails.

They’re Everywhere

Foxtails were once found almost entirely in the Western U.S. However, they’ve now been found in all 50 continental U.S. states, as well as in Canada.

They Can Be Deadly

Foxtail grasses aren’t poisonous, and they aren’t specifically a choking hazard. The danger is actually with their seeds, which are very sharp and hard. The seeds have curved barbs on their ends, which can pierce pets’ skin. Unfortunately, due to the way they are shaped, they do not fall out, and they don’t work their way out. Instead, they keep moving deeper into pets’ bodies. They can cause painful infections, and can also severely damage internal organs. This is very dangerous, and can even be life-threatening.

Signs Are Tricky

One of the issues with foxtail grasses is that there isn’t just one or two red flags to look for. How your pet reacts will depend on where the seed is. A pet with a seed in his ear may shake or tilt his head, or paw at his ears. Seeds that have gotten into the eyes or nose can cause redness, watering, sneezing, and discharge, while inhaled ones can make pets cough or wheeze. Occasionally, pets even get seeds in their genitalia. This may cause them to lick themselves urgently. You may also see sores or abscesses. Call your vet right away if you notice any of these red flags.

Dogs Are High Risk

Although foxtails are dangerous to many animals, dogs are at the highest risk. Fido’s love of exploring and sniffing grass and leaves can definitely backfire on him in this area!

You Can Take Precautions

There are ways to limit the odds of your pet encountering foxtails. Don’t let your furry pal sniff around overgrown fields and lots. Also, check Fido over carefully after bringing him in from the woods. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to remove the seed before it’s penetrated your pet’s skin. However, if you find an embedded foxtail, call your vet. Please contact us here at Fairfield Animal Hospital, your Cy-Fair animal clinic, anytime. We’re here to help!
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