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Protect Your Pets from Foxtail Grass This Summer

Foxtail grasses look innocuous and non-threatening, but can cause serious health problems for your pets. In the summer when the grasses dry out, the seeds can burrow into the skin or tissues, causing infection, tissue and organ damage, and even death. Here’s a guide to recognizing foxtail grasses and protecting your pets from exposure this summer.

How to Recognize Foxtail Grasses

Foxtail grasses are tall, green or yellow weeds that grow throughout the United States. In the summer, they dry out and their barbed seeds can break off easily and get trapped on your pet’s hair or skin. Dogs and cats who eat grasses or even run through them are at risk of foxtail seeds getting lodged in their noses, ears, and throats. Watch out for tall grasses or weeds that look like wild wheat or barley, and that have a bushy end that looks like a bird’s feather or a fox’s tail.

Problems Caused by Foxtail Exposure

As foxtail seeds burrow, they damage skin, tissues, and organs. They can become embedded in a pet’s skin, eye, ear, nose, throat, and genitals. If they enter your pet’s ear, nose, or throat, they can burrow until they reach internal organs, which can cause organ failure, chronic health conditions, or death. When foxtails burrow into the skin, they can cause irritation, redness, swelling, infection, and pain. 

Protecting Your Pet from Foxtails 

The best way to protect your pet from foxtails is to supervise him closely when he’s outside. Keep dogs on-leash in the summer, and if your cat regularly goes outside, consider keeping him in for the summer or supervising his outdoor time. Check your pet for barbs or seeds before you bring him back inside. Keep your yard weed-free, and be aware of what foxtails look like and the symptoms of exposure.

If you see a foxtail barb on your pet or suspect he has been exposed to or has ingested foxtail seeds, bring him to a veterinary clinic as soon as possible. Your veterinarian will need to do a full examination and may need to surgically remove foxtails from your pet.

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