In the fall, when grasses have grown long and lush, a playful run through a field could cause your dog or cat serious infection, irritation, and misery resulting in an emergency visit to the veterinarian. The danger is foxtails, wild barley, and the seeds of many other wild grasses.
Blowing in the Wind
We all know how dandelion seeds spread from one field to another; the tiny seeds, nestled in a ball of fluff, flutter off the plant with the slightest breeze. Foxtails and grass seeds propagate much the same way.
A grass seed, however, is different from a dandelion seed. A protective coating called an awn covers the seed pod. In some species, such as foxtail grass, the awn is armed with barbs.
When a grass awn blows off the stalk and settles on the ground, it immediately starts germinating and working its way down into the soil. Unfortunately, warm, moist skin provides much the same environment. Grass awns can stick to your pet's coat as it wanders through the grass.
Foxtails and other grass awns can penetrate ANY body orifice (nostrils, mouth, ears, and genital area), your pet's underbelly, and between the toes. Once eplanted, they begin to migrate, working right into your pets skin, through to the underlying tissue.
Long-haired pets and long-eared dogs are most susceptible to the problem, but all breeds can be affected.
Growing in the Skin
If the seed has penetrated the skin and awn is broken off, it will continue its journey, deep into your pet's flesh. Attempts to remove it without veterinary assistance would be futile.
In addition to becoming imbedded in the skin, the prickly seeds can become tangled in your petšs coat, causing severe matting. It's next to impossible to brush or comb them out.
Your pet could be suffering from foxtail penetration if it is exhibiting any of the following symptoms:
Foxtails in the Ears:
Head shaking, excessive ear scratching, whining, or discharge from the ear canal.
Foxtails in the Nose:
Sneezing, nasal discharge, and scratching or rubbing the nose.
Foxtails in the mouth, tongue or throat:
Excessive salivating; choking attempts to regurgitate; vomiting; a harsh, rasping cough or bark; disinterest in food, or excessive water consumption.
As with any infection, your pet may also be lethargic, irritable, or sensitive to being touched in certain areas. Specific areas may be swollen and painful, like an abscess, or draining fluid may be present.
Prevention is Good Medicine
You can try to avoid letting your pet run in areas infested with foxtail grasses, such as in fields, back alleys, farm yards, and natural parks close to your home.
- For cats, keeping your pet indoors is the best bet.
- To try to ensure your pets do not suffer from foxtail penetration, cut, clean up, and discard all weeds and wild grasses growing near your property.
- Since foxtails are blown by the wind, watch that large bunches of them don't collect in your yard, providing your dog with tantalizing clumps of billowing, blowing seeds to play in.
- Make a habit of grooming your pet after each walk, to keep his coat clean and mat-free, and to check for foxtails or other irritating debris.
- Even if you try to take every precaution, symptoms of foxtail trouble may still develop. Seek veterinary advice immediately. The longer you wait it out, the more difficult and expensive treatment will become.
- Unlike many ailments our pets can contract, there is no guarantee you can avoid the problem of foxtail invasion.
Article submitted by: © Terri Perrin