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Foxtails: The Wild West Edition

In my veterinary career, the topic of foxtails was unrelatable given my midwestern residence. However, a recent visit to EVS Pet Urgent Care in Reno got me front and center with the Wild West. This encounter brought the dangers of foxtails to life! So, let's delve into the importance of understanding these troublesome plant parts.

Foxtails may seem harmless at first glance, but they can pose serious dangers to pets if they come into contact with them. These sharp, barbed grass seeds can cause a host of health issues for dogs and cats, ranging from minor irritations to potentially life-threatening conditions.

One of the main dangers of foxtails for pets is their ability to burrow into the fur and skin of animals. The sharp backward-facing barbs on the seeds allow them to easily become embedded in the fur, paws, ears, eyes, and even the nostrils of pets. Once they have penetrated the skin, they can migrate deeper into the body, causing pain, inflammation, infection, and in some cases, abscesses.

Pets that have come into contact with foxtails may exhibit symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, shaking their head, excessive scratching, swelling, discharge, and limping. In severe cases, animals may develop abscesses, pneumonia, organ damage, or even death if the foxtail is not removed promptly.

Preventing foxtail injuries in pets can be challenging, as these seeds are commonly found in open fields, parks, and yards. However, there are steps that pet owners can take to minimize the risk to their furry companions. Keeping pets on a leash when walking in areas where foxtails are present can help prevent them from coming into contact with the seeds. Additionally, regularly checking pets for signs of foxtails, such as mats in their fur or redness around their ears and eyes, can help prevent serious health issues.

If a pet is suspected of having come into contact with a foxtail, it is important to seek veterinary care immediately. A veterinarian can carefully remove the seed and provide treatment to prevent further complications. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove deeply embedded fox tails or to treat infections caused by the seeds.

Foxtails can pose significant dangers to pets if they come into contact with them. Pet owners should be vigilant about checking their furry companions for signs of these seeds and take steps to prevent them from coming into contact with foxtails in the first place. By being proactive and seeking veterinary care when needed, pet owners can help protect their beloved animals from the potential dangers of foxtails.


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