If you own a dog in California you have either heard or been warned of foxtails – if you haven’t then read on and take heed.
Foxtails are little nasty plants that look like wheat ears and harmless enough in spring time while they are nice and green. Come the heat of summer, they dry up and go to seed, with each little seed head breaking away from the main plant. They seem still harmless enough, but get one stuck in your socks on a hike and you will make yourself stop and find it – they hurt!
These little buggers are even worse for dogs, especially dogs (like Freia) who want to do nothing more than tear around the fields flushing birds or chasing ground squirrels. They get stuck in their coats, and can burrow into the skin. Worst case scenario, they go into the eyes (look for watering, pawing at the eye – DON’T try to get it out, if it breaks you risk worse damage to the dog, take your dog to the vet!!), in the ear (pawing, head shaking), the nose (furious non-stop sneezing, maybe even with blood) or throat (hacking, coughing). In all those cases the recommendation is to take your dog to the vet right away. I’ve heard it said that foxtails can actually work their way into the lungs, intestines and even brain of the dog, but to be honest that seems fairly far-fetched.. if at least unlikely.
Freia’s case is clearly not so dramatic. She appears to have a foxtail stuck in the skin above her paw, almost in between her front “toes”. I don’t know for sure that it’s a foxtail since there is nothing visibly there, but it’s not getting any better, so tomorrow we are going to try to squeeze her in to see her busy vet. The vet said (and this is a bit gross) that it’s sometimes better to wait till it’s festering to get it out.. yuck! Well, festering it is, it’s gone from what looked like a sting, to a sore, and the foot becomes quite swollen and tender after walking. She’s licking at it, but not constantly, but enough to warrant concern. So, I’m keeping her off her feet to try to minimize swelling and will take her in tomorrow. Hopefully it will be easily found and not involve surgery (which is not uncommon with foxtails unfortunately).
Not knowing yet how bad it is, I can’t say I would never let Freia romp in a grassy field again (as one web site suggested!) – especially since at least here in the San Francisco area foxtails grow out of every weed patch on every corner, and she may have picked it up just walking down the street in town, who knows? I guess the trick is to give the dog a good once over and brush after a visit to a dried out field – which is what I’ve been doing anyway – clearly there are no guarantees.
I will let you know part II after I see the vet.