A Real Thorn In Their Side: The Danger Of Embedded Foxtails

With spring here and summer on its way, the great outdoors look more inviting than ever to mankind's fuzzy friends. However, there is a danger lurking outside, from your neighbor's yard to the woods you walk your dog in. This danger can potentially put your dog or cat's life at risk and cause serious pain and harm. Read on to learn more about the danger that is foxtails and what you can do to prevent your pet from being harmed.

What Are Foxtails

Foxtails are a specific type of weed that easily comes off of its stem when a pet rubs up against it. Foxtails resemble a barbed missile, pointed on one end with many sharp points emerging from its sides. Foxtails have evolved to stick to surfaces and animals in order to spread their seeds, but this mechanism can also hurt your pet.

How Foxtails Hurt Animals

There are several ways that foxtails could potentially harm your pet. When a foxtail gets stuck to a pet, oftentimes - especially with cats - the foxtail will be ingested when the pet goes to groom itself. Unfortunately, the sharp and pointy nature of the foxtail can easily puncture your pet's windpipe, esophagus, or even stomach lining. This can cause severe infections and put your pet at risk of serious illness.

In some instances, foxtails can be inhaled, which means that they can get into the lungs and puncture them. Like the rest of the body, this can cause a severe infection that can make it hard for your pet to breathe.

Lastly, if a foxtail isn't removed from your pet, it has the potential to get driven into your pet's skin, effectively burrowing into their flesh. This is not only painful, but can cause a skin infection that can cause your pet's fur to fall out.

What To Do

Foxtails should be avoided at all costs. If you have foxtails in your yard, remove them and use weed killer to prevent their return. If your neighbors have them, encourage them to do the same. If you walk your pet outdoors or allow your pet to roam freely, examine and groom your pet every day after they return home for foxtails. Carefully remove any you find and dispose of them where your pet can't get to them.

If you find a foxtail that's already embedded in your pet's mouth, nose, or body, get to a veterinarian right away. Trying to remove an embedded foxtail could cause it to break off, leaving a portion of it behind in your pet's body. Only a veterinarian like Robert Irelan DVM is able to remove embedded foxtails in one piece and administer necessary first aid to prevent infection afterward.