Warning: the following post contains graphic description This is the Foxtail weed. These plants can be incredibly harmful to dogs and sometimes cats and they can be found all over the world. Within the last week, I know of three dogs who were rushed to the vet with an embedded Foxtail. The top picture above is a healthy plant and the bottom picture is a dying plant. When the plant is dying, it is the most harmful because the barbs dry out and become harder. These barbs are actually the seedlings of the plant and are designed to burrow themselves into whatever they come into contact with, whether it be the ground or an animal's fur. These seedlings can burrow themselves into your pet via paw, ear, eyes, mouth, or genitals and continue to work their way through the body. The enzymes they produce cause an infection which in turn produces pus. This is one instance in which your pet's immune system does not work in his favor because the barbs then travel down tunnels of pus created by the infection where they can fatally puncture vital organs including the heart, brain, spinal cord, and lungs. Every time a dog moves or the breeze blows, they inch a little further.
I see Foxtails on every walk I take this time of year. Excessive rain has made them more plentiful than usual. In the city, you will see them most often in patches of unkempt, dying grass and hiking trails. If you find Foxtails in your yard, rip them out! Their barbs enable them to be easily caught in fur so it is very important to check every inch of your pet on a daily basis during Spring and Summer months. Pay special attention to between the paws since they make direct contact with the ground. Symptoms to look for in your pet are excessive sneezing, shaking of the ears, gummy discharge from the eyes, trouble swallowing, repeated licking of the paws or groin, and any swollen areas or lumps. If your furry friend has any of these symptoms, please seek veterinary care right away.