Weekly Wag: West Coast Dogs and Foxtails

I found out first-hand about foxtails in 2009, when our Shih Tzu’s paw was swollen and infected and took her to the vet. Growing up in the midwest, I never heard of foxtails. I was accustom to fleas and ticks, but what was this new danger to my pets. Well apparently it is a west coast problem. Our Shih Tzu, my daughter’s dog, has hair, not fur, that attracts anything and everything.  That was a $400 lesson. I pay close attention to where my dogs go now and if there are foxtails, their feet, legs, ears and face are checked real good.

The vet made it sound like a matter of life and death and if she did not get surgery and goes through her blood stream she could die. (I’m not saying that they can’t be dangerous, but don’t scare the owners to death. I’ve seen many dogs since that don’t have a problem at all). They had to operate to see if the foxtail was indeed buried in her skin. By now my daughter is in tears, we had an early flight the next morning to go on vacation. They wanted to operate, keep her overnight, give her antibiotics. We could not leave her overnight and did not think it necessary, which also lowered the bill. Looking back I am so glad we did not pay the money to keep her overnight, totally unnecessary!

Heidi got her surgery, I lost part of my vacation money, stressed out to the max and the neighbor that was to watch her while on vacation said, “Oh I could have got it out for you.” She is in the health care field, not a vet though. Vets do a lot of great work but a lot are seriously lacking compassion and humanity skills. I have since quit going to that vet after a couple of more issues. One of my pet peeves-another story. Heidi recovered nicely, my neighbors took good care of her, but to this day she does not like that paw touched.

The bottom line is don’t panic if your dog gets foxtails on them, your dog is probably not in a life-threatening situation, although the vet would have you believe that-your bill goes higher and higher. I have a nice compassionate vet now that actually cares about our pets and not the amount he can charge us. (Another reason I have turned to holistic remedies).

If you live on the east coast, chances are you have no idea of what I’m talking about. Foxtails grows like an abundant weed all over California. When the grass is green in the spring, it’s pretty; it produces these heads that resemble a finer version or wheat or barley. But the moment the plants start to dry in the later part of the spring, the heads start to fall apart – and each tiny segment of the heads becomes a danger to any dog who goes near it.

A clump of foxtail grass. The plant is lovely when green, but dries up in late spring and summer, turning those luxuriant seed heads into dog-harming missiles.

So when your dog sniffs in the dirt or grass that is loaded with foxtails  and one foxtail seed (known simply as a foxtail) makes contact with his nose, it’s likely to get sniffed into his nasal cavity. He may cough, vomit, gag, and sneeze some more. All of those actions simply make the foxtail move farther and farther into the dog’s body.

Dogs also get them lodged between their toes, in their ears, in their genitalia, or, if they are unlucky enough to have a thick or curly coat, anywhere on their body. It can cause an infection anywhere it lodges.

When green, the seeds are not a problem. But as they dry, they fall apart, and each seed head and each tail on each seed can work its way into your dog’s body.

One company has come up with a partial solution – which is better than anyone else has done. It’s a California-based company, of course. The Outfox Field Guard is sort of like a beekeeper’s bonnet for dogs who are going to work or walk outside in a foxtail-rich environment. It protects the dog’s nose and ears (and mouth – often dogs swallow the stickers).

Of course, it does nothing for the dog’s paws, which still have to be checked after each walk around the infamous stickers. The dog can see, pant, and breathe normally, and some dogs figure out that they can drink through it, too, although our test dog, Bucky, hasn’t learned that trick yet.

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5 thoughts on “Weekly Wag: West Coast Dogs and Foxtails

  1. Hello, I think your web site could possibly be having web browser compatibility issues.
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    • thank you. i use a Mac and Firefox, so I don’t know what it looks like in IE. Thanks for your feedback.

  2. What holistic remedies do you use? My dog has an abscess from a foxtail on one paw, and what appears to be a healing sore from one that I think must’ve exited on its own on another paw. Trying to decide if I need to go to the vet or not, and/or how long I have to decide.

    • If your dog has an abscess, I would take him to the vet to have it checked out. They will probably want to do surgery. Don’t let them scare you, as the vet did me! Foxtails, once in the dog’s skin, can travel through their bloodstream. I would take my dog to a holistic vet. I have not used home remedy for a foxtail abscess. I do use a tee tree salve mixed with other herbs for my dogs wounds/skin abrasions. They usually do exit on their own in short haired dogs, that I have seen.

  3. yes it’s important to check where your dogs are going. i’ve got ants biting the underbelly of my dog as well. it’s also important to wash their paws right after a walk outside the house 🙂

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