Q: Why are foxtails so dangerous for animals? And how do I keep them off my pet?
A: Foxtails are so dangerous because not only can they work their way into any part of your dog or cat, but the actual seeds are very tough and don’t break down. They are hard to find in a pet’s fur and they like to get around, too—a foxtail in the nose can migrate to the brain and one in the skin can eventually make its way to a lung.
The first step to keeping your dog or cat foxtail-free is to remove the plants from your yard and avoid tall grasses if possible. If your pets are outside frequently, brush them often and check for foxtails over their entire body, paying special attention to ears, mouth, nose, around the base of the tail and especially between toes.
You can use your hands or tweezers to remove foxtails you find on your pet right after attachment, taking care not to break the tip off. However, a visit to the vet is important if you notice the following symptoms:
- Constant licking of an area, especially feet or genitals
- Limping or swelling of a foot
- Shaking the head, tilting it to one side or scratching incessantly.
- Redness, discharge, swelling, pawing or squinting of the eyes
- Frequent or intense sneezing, or nasal discharge
It’s important not to wait because deeply embedded foxtails can cause painful abscesses, swelling, and even death.