With summer and dry weather comes a greater risk of grass seed, commonly known as “foxtail,” infections for your pet. Foxtails are commonly found lodged in your pets’ paws, ears, eyes or nose. It’s important that the problem is detected early to make treatment easier and minimize pain and discomfort. Foxtails have a sharp point that can easily penetrate skin. The fibers along the edge of the seed that fan out make them similar to a fish hook once they are embedded. They often get caught in the dog’s coat after they’ve been in long grass and then they work their way into the skin. They will cause infection which presents as swelling and, if left untreated, can cause a nasty abscess.
It’s important to look out for swelling or a weeping wound around your dog’s toes and feet and keep an eye out for excessive licking or chewing. Other indications that a seed is stuck in their ears are excessive head shaking or ear scratching as well as being sensitive to touch. If the seed is stuck in the eye you will likely see squinting, rubbing and a swollen eye (this may or may not be weepy).
If you think that your pet might have a foxtail in its skin you should not delay in getting them to the clinic. If the infection is found early (and your dog is a trusting patient) the seed can often be removed with a relatively non-invasive treatment by our vets. Otherwise, if the seed gets too deep in the skin, surgery, antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication may be needed. We also commonly see foxtails stuck up dog’s noses causing strong sneezing and sometimes even a bloody nose. These pets require full general anesthesia for removal. If foxtails in the nose are not removed, there is risk for the seed to migrate deeper causing problems in the brain or in the lungs.
During this summer of drought especially, foxtails are more prevalent and there are precautions you should take to prevent an infection. Keep grass and weeds around your property under control and avoid long grass when you take your dog out for a walk. If you have a long haired dog keep them well groomed and, with all dogs, make sure you regularly check their coat and pay particular attention to the problem areas which are eyes, feet/paws and ears.