Veterinarian Catherine Whitcraft D.V.M., identifies the potential dangers for your pet with Foxtails in the Las Vegas area and the desert southwest of Nevada in general.  

Dr. Whitcraft

By Catherine Whitcraft, D.V.M.

Walking your dog is a daily task that is both beneficial to you and your dog. You both get exercise and quality time together. Nevada is home to deserts, parks, and mountains to explore with your pet. However, Nevada is also home to Hordeum Lubatum, also known as the Foxtail.

A Foxtail is a small grass-like weed that populates the West Coast of the United States, from Idaho to California. During the Spring and Summer, when temperatures climb, and the plant’s seeds dry out, these annoying weeds blanket open fields. Due to the physical structure of the Foxtail, and their heavy growth outdoors, they can be a problem for your average dog on a walk.

Picture compliments of Pixabay

Foxtails can lodge themselves into almost anything that they come into contact with. They can cause irritation and pain to your pet if they become embedded somewhere they should not. Foxtails are narrow at one end and have pointy bristles at the other, which helps them burrow. Once the burr end of a Foxtail, the proper name for the pointy end, has attached to your pet, the chances of it becoming dislodged are very slim. The Foxtail can go unnoticed by owners for a significant amount of time causing your dog pain and discomfort until other symptoms appear.  Dogs with long coats are particularly vulnerable to these weeds, since they can hide in their fur.

Since dogs move through and even eat grass, Foxtails can be found anywhere on a dog’s body. Some of the most common places we find them are between the toes, in the ears, the eyes, mouth, and nose. In severe cases, we have found them embedded deep inside the body – in the gastrointestinal tract, the airways, and the reproductive tract. Your veterinarian may have to perform a surgical procedure under an anesthetic to remove an embedded Foxtail. An embedded Foxtail may lead to an abscess. Common signs that a pet may be suffering from a lodged Foxtail are; swelling, redness, constant scratching, frequent sneezing, discharge, shaking or tilting of his/her head, and limping.

Prevention is the best form of cure when it comes to Foxtails. When walking your dog during Foxtail season (Spring and early Summer time) take preventative methods, such as; clearing up any weeds on lawn, avoid grassy areas, use dog shoes, brush your dog after the walk, and even place an Outfox Field Guard over the head of your dog.

Although Foxtails are indigenous to the West Coast of the United States, they are particularly prevalent in the desert southwest, such as Las Vegas. So, if you and your pet encounter issues with these unsavory weeds, do not hesitate to visit your Veterinarian.