Animal Update: When Pets Pick Up Foxtails

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(photo courtesy: City of Alameda)

(photo courtesy: City of Alameda)

Jeff Bell20100908_KCBS_0122r Jeff Bell
A Bay Area native, Jeff is thrilled to be at KCBS, a station he...
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(CBS SF) – Foxtails are sprouting again in and around San Francisco. These plants are a real problem for pets enjoying the spring and summer months.

“They sure are,” said Dr. Jack Aldridge, Director of Veterinary Services at the SF SPCA. “It’s one of the most common reasons dogs are brought in for treatment at the San Francisco SPCA during the warmer months. And there are tons of them out there right now.”

“Foxtails are the bushy-shaped heads of wild barley, a grass that’s common in California,” Aldridge continued. “While it’s soft and green during the cooler months, in early summer the seed heads become dry and stiff and the individual foxtail structures have sharp points at one end and they can burrow into an animal’s skin.”

What happens when that foxtail attaches to a dog or cat?

“Well, all dogs and outdoor cats can get foxtails caught between their toes and bushy-haired pets often get them caught in their coats where they can burrow into the skin,” warned Aldridge. “Now at this stage they’re very difficult and sometimes impossible to find and remove. Foxtails can also get into an animal’s ear, nose, throat and eyes and these cases need to be treated as an emergency.”

There are signs pet owners should look for.

“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 his head, gagging and retching, squinting or closing his eye, these are all signs that a foxtail can be lodged in one of these areas and the animal should be taken to a veterinarian immediately.”

KCBS’ Jeff Bell Reports:

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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