Animal Update: Foxtails

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Hordeum murinum, a common source of foxtails in many areas

Hordeum murinum, a common source of foxtails in many areas (Wikipedia)

KCBS Animal Update
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(KCBS) – Foxtails are sprouting again. These plants are a real problem for pets during the spring and summer months. KCBS’ Jeff Bell talks about this issue to Dr. Jack Aldridge, Director of Veterinary Services at The San Francisco SPCA in this week’s Animal Update.

Foxtails are one of the most common reasons dogs are brought in for treatment at The San Francisco SPCA during the warmer months. Foxtails are the bushy-shaped heads of “wild barely,” a grass that’s common in California. It’s soft and green right now, but soon, the seed heads will become dry and stiff. They have sharp points at one end and they can burrow into the skin. They’re very difficult to pull out because the barbs lie in the direction of the point.

All dogs easily get foxtails caught between their toes. And bushy-haired pets get them caught in their coats, where they can burrow into the skin. Foxtails also get into an animal’s ears, nose, throat, eyes and even worse places! These cases need to be treated as an emergency.

After being in the weeds and grass, if a dog or cat suddenly begins violently sneezing, pawing at the nose or ears, tilting and shaking its head, gagging and retching, squinting or closing its eye, these are all signs that a foxtail could be lodged in one of these areas. Any open, draining sore on the feet or elsewhere likewise demands attention.

To prevent a foxtail situation, pets should be brushed and combed and their feet checked for foxtails daily. Or give them a nice short haircut for the summer, including their feet, so that foxtails are easier to spot and remove. And keep your dog leashed and away from foxtails at all times.

Animal Update airs on KCBS All News 740AM and 106.9FM on Sundays at 1:35 p.m., 3:35 p.m., and 9:21 p.m.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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