If you are familiar with our Golden Hills then you probably have run into your fair share of “foxtails”. These pesky, bristly plant awns grow in abundance throughout California. Once these plant seeds dry, they become hell-bent on finding their way into animals’ noses, ears, eyes, mouths and just about every other orifice.

Dog in field of foxtails

They can dive deep into a dog’s nostril or ear canal (beyond sight) in the blink of an eye. A foxtail camouflaged under a layer of hair can readily burrow through the skin (a favorite hiding place is between toes). Foxtails can wind up virtually anywhere in the body and associated symptoms vary based on location. For example, a foxtail within the ear canal causes intense head shaking and ear scratching. In the eye it will lead to squinting, swelling, and constant pain. Not only is the dog’s body incapable of degrading or decomposing foxtails, these plant awns are barbed in such a way that they can only move in a “forward” direction.

Unless you catch foxtails early, they, and the bacteria they carry, will either form an abscess or migrate through the body. Once foxtails have moved internally, they become notoriously difficult to find and will cause chronic infections. Foxtails in the eye can be especially dangerous and cause permanent damage if left to fester. Read the rest of this entry »