Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The small but dangerous Foxtail (Grass Awn)

At first look you think, what’s the big deal with this little piece of a plant? (Foxtail picture: Well, if your pet has had an encounter with a foxtail you definitely know how much trouble they can cause!

Most of the time they get into your pet’s ears, nose or eyes and with a little sedation your veterinarian can usually remove them easily. Sometimes they can bury into the skin and end up embedded (usually within a paw) causing inflammation, infection and PAIN! (*Viewer discretion* Picture from a few days ago of foxtail being removed from a paw:

Last week I saw a little dog that was squinting and kept pawing at his eye. It was very inflamed and watery. I put some local anesthesia in his eye, probed around and noticed a thin tan colored object poking under the eyelid. I began to remove it and it kept going and going and going …It was the longest foxtail I have removed! Although it was the longest foxtail I have removed I almost missed it and was amazed as to how it made its way under the eyelid!

Unfortunately for pets, the little barbs on foxtails were designed to help them bury themselves and travel one-way deep into tissues, sometimes traveling internally to a body cavity and setting up an infection. In one unfortunate cat, the foxtail managed to burrow through the skin and travel to its heart causing a deadly infection! (*Viewer discretion* Picture of heart with a foxtail within it: and

Signs that a foxtail may be causing trouble include sudden onset of squinting and/or discharge from an eye, pawing at the face, shaking of the head, pawing at an ear, constant sneezing, nasal discharge, limping or constant licking of a paw. If you notice these signs it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your pet’s veterinarian, especially if you find yourself removing foxtails from your pet’s coat.

If your cats or dogs go outdoors, especially during the summer and fall seasons when grasses begin to dry, be sure to brush them daily and remove all foxtails that you find. Always inspect their ears and paws as they can hide between the toes!