Featured Bay Woof Magazine July 2017: http://baywoof.com/featured-article/watching-out-for-those-pesky-foxtails/
So pleasant isn’t it, the Spring in SF this year! The topsy turvy past couple of years of what seemed like an unending drought followed by what seemed like unending rains sprang forth lush green grasses and weeds throughout the City and in the fields and hillsides of our favorite walking locations like we haven’t seen before. For now the rains have stopped, the sun is shining bright, and one of a dog owner’s natural enemies has sprouted in force - the Foxtail Grass. These bad boys are dropping like flies in SF’s nature parks like the Presidio and are causing problems for Citizens human and hound alike...and it’s only just begun. Local vets concur with our estimates; this is going to be an important year for owners to take seriously the threat of this dastardly menace!
Dry sunny days have just begun the process of dropping the seed casings commonly referred to as the foxtail. Most often the foxtail and bur weeds get stuck in the shaggy coats of the longer haired dog as well as in the curly-haired even if cut short. And these guys can invoke serious injury in the blink of an eye. The awn of the foxtail, the hardened tip encasing the seed, has near-microscopic barbs that lodge into whatever it finds and cling to it. Beyond getting caught up in a dog’s hair, the four-legged Citizens can get foxtails lodged in their paws, eyelids, ears, armpits, mouths/tongues/throats, and noses. The foxtails can attach themselves to a dog like velcro and then continue to move inward, unable to back out because of the way the barbs work, until they can pierce through the skin. They can infect the poor pooch with the bacterias that live inside that nasty little barbed tip.
While there’s no avoiding a vet visit should one of our pooches get seriously injured by a foxtail, there are things we can do to better prevent injury from happening in the first place. Beyond the obvious of keeping the pooches out of the grass, which at times is seemingly impossible considering it’s everywhere, simply keeping your dog well-groomed and doing a quick once over after a walk work the best. If your dog has long, and especially curly, hair constantly cluttered with foxtails (not to mention the other burr weeds and whatnot out there) it’s probably a good idea to go with a short trim until the foxtails clear out...however long that will take, who knows! The poodle trim around the paws is a good call for those with that hair - it may not be your dog’s favorite look but the peace of mind that comes with it outweighs the preservation of self-image. Foxtail injuries between the toes are the most common because of furry feet, and hard to spot. Groomers are slammed right now for summer cuts. Whether or not a shorter haircut is opted for, check your dog thoroughly from nose to tail after visiting areas with tall grass weeds. We recommend that on top of what we do to check all our dogs after our walks every owner check their dog regularly this summer too, and if you have a curly haired or shaggy dog check them each night. We have a lot of dogs to check and we don’t want to miss anything. And 9/10 going through their hair regularly is enough to prevent anything besides the freak foxtail up the nose or eyes.
Signs your pooch may give you that a foxtail is causing big problems are a bloody nose / lots of sneezing all of a sudden, incessant pawing at the ear, chewing on a paw pad or other spot, leaky eyes, and lots of whimpering and whining especially when the affected area is touched! If you think there’s a problem you can check anything out with your hands and eyes - look down the nostrils, check the eyelids, peer down the ear holes, scope out the mouth and throat, check between the paw pads, or run your hands through the hair whilst pulling out any unlodged foxtail you come across. If it’s too late seek veterinary attention. Our closest vet hospitals are Marina Pet Hospital @ Lombard & Webster and SPCA @ Fillmore & Washington [24 hour care].
Unfortunately there is no guaranteed, fool-proof way to completely safeguard against the foxtails all the while enjoying the nature it grows in at the Presidio, other than perhaps should the Park cut them down and clean them out (seriously, stop building for a minute and start maintaining the accessible areas of the park...but I digress..). We stick to the pathways, we check the dogs over each day - we do what’s prescribed above and wait for foxtail season to end.