The Foxtail, a danger to dogs
The suspect causing significant damage to dogs is called a foxtail. Foxtails are a grass that produces seeds in a spikelet cluster. This spikelet cluster is a means for the plant to disperse the seeds via animal dispersal. These spikelets have a sharp pointed end and barbs along the seed that sticks to animals fur. Dogs can be harmed by foxtails as they can migrate into ears, the spaces between the toes, under the eyelids and other areas.
The space between the toes is a common place for foxtails to become embedded under the skin. The signs may be limited to just redness in the area, or could lead to an abscess. Removal of the foxtail can be achieved with minor surgery. Antibiotics are then given to resolve any local infection. When foxtails get in the ears, dogs will often shake their heads in agitation. Sometimes the foxtail just sits in the ear with no signs. Examination of the ear can assess for the presence of this condition. Foxtails are removed from the ear with a specialized instrument. Anesthesia is sometimes required. Foxtails in the ear can penetrate the eardrum and cause significant middle and inner ear infections. Foxtails under the eyelid can cause ulcers on the cornea of the eye and require extensive treatment despite simple removal from this location.
This is the beginning of the season for foxtails to start dispersing their seeds. Prevention of harm to our canine friends is achieved by ensuring dogs are limited to access to these plants. Physical removal of the plant is necessary. Spraying the plants with herbicides is ineffective because the seeds are not removed with this method.