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Hunting for Foxtails - Pet Care & Safety - Friends of the Palo Alto Animal Shelter

Hunting for Foxtails

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Foxtails grow against a wallThe tiny seed moves slowly, relentlessly. With every breath, with every movement, it snuggles deeper into the fur as it inches forward, always seeking, never stopping.  Finally it reaches flesh and the journey continues, piercing tender skin, and now it’s in the tissues, sliding between layers of muscle, inexorably toward the heart of the animal.

This is a foxtail. It’s hard to believe this sharp pointed seed with its barbed tail is not a malevolent intelligent being whose sole objective is to seek and kill.

My beautiful collie Mr. Chadwick, with his heavy flowing coat, was a victim of a foxtail. Luckily, I discovered the lump on his chest.  Seeing the inverted seeping entrance wound sent us straight to our vet and emergency surgery. The foxtail they found had journeyed within a quarter-inch of entering his heart muscle. That foxtail almost killed the best dog ever.

Foxtails are everywhere now. I just found one on my beagle that had already entered her skin, aiming straight for her throat. We live in the city—no weeds or foxtails anywhere in our manicured lawns and gardens—and yet, there it was. Sneaky, determined, mindless.

Foxtails get into your pet’s ears—both dogs and cats. If not discovered, the seed burrows along the ear canal, causing deafness before entering the brain. A good sniff can suck one into a dog’s nose to begin its relentless journey, again straight to the brain.  Even when the organ it enters is not vital, infection ensues. When it enters the foot, finding the delicate tissues between the pads, the seed can cause lameness and infection. And when it enters the eye, surgery may be required before blindness and infection result.

cluster of foxtailsCheck your pet frequently—around the eyes, ears, and feet, running your hands over her body—searching for the tell-tale sharp talons of this frightful seed. And remember, this malevolent threat can be anywhere; it attaches to your clothes, sticks in your socks, gets into your shoes—so check those as well. We must be constantly vigilant for our beloved pets.

JeremyAbout the Author
Jeremy Lindston Robinson, our Vice President

Photo Credit: Adobe Pet Hospital