For those of you who live in foxtail territory, be careful! I just finished working a shift at an emergency hospital in northern California, where foxtails reign supreme. In a period of 12 hours, I was party to the removal of five foxtails from pets. Two were in ears, two were in noses, and one was in an eye.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with grass awns (colloquially called foxtails), I recommend that you check the link above. Foxtails aren’t present in every locale. But in areas where they grow, foxtails are public enemy number one as far as pets are concerned.
Foxtails occur where long grass (especially wild barley) has gone to seed and dried. They are sharp, irritating plant parts that can embed in the socks of hikers, or in virtually any body part of a pet. If a foxtail works its way into a pet’s ear, he may shake his head violently, rub the ear, or whine when the ear is touched. In the nose, foxtails cause violent sneezing. Foxtails embedded in eyes cause phenomenal pain, squinting, and swelling. In the skin, they cause bleeding, swelling, hair loss, and excessive licking.
Regardless of location, embedded foxtails are painful and have the potential to migrate to distant parts of the body. And once one is embedded, you’ll be looking at a costly vet bill to search for it. Removal is not guaranteed.
My advice: learn whether foxtails are present in your area. If they are, learn what they look like. And then, avoid them like the plague! If you let your pet roam through tall, dry seeded grass, you may end up in the waiting room of a veterinary emergency clinic–nobody’s favorite place to pass time.
Photo from great Dog Owner’s Guide to California Foxtail