The term "foxtail" can actually be attributed to a number of different grass species that have bushy spikes of 'spikelets'; though not all are hazardous. One of the most common and dangerous is the Hordeum murinum grass that is found throughout Seattle. For simplicities sake, this is what we'll be referring to as foxtails for this article.
As some of you may have experienced firsthand, foxtails can be dangerous and costly for our beloved dogs. The spikes are relatively harmless when the plant is alive and green, but when it dries out and dies, the spikes become like razor barbs that can burrow themselves into skin. Ears, eyes, nasal cavities, paws, mouths, or anywhere else on the body can become afflicted. Once these little devils bury themselves into the skin, they become hard to see and can create a lot of pain, discomfort, and eventual abscess or infection.
Simple everyday movement causes these barbs to burrow further into the skin and can necessitate surgery to remove them. The longer they are left in, the further they travel, so having them removed as soon as possible is important. It will not only relieve your pooch sooner, it'll cut short the amount of damage that could occur.
Found everywhere from fields, along the sidewalk, to your backyard, they're pretty hard to avoid. But avoiding them is the best way to keep your dog safe. Keeping them bathed and groomed can help spot these menaces and just regularly checking for them when exposure can't be avoided will be beneficial. Make sure to check paws, between the pads and toes, as well as inner ears. Keeping the fur between the pads trimmed can also help.
Every year, veterinarians see multiple patients- otherwise healthy dogs with embedded foxtails. So if you suspect a foxtail may be troubling your best friend, get them to your vet. Common signs can include head shaking, scratching, and foul smell - ears. Limping, licking, blood or discharge - paws. You know your pet best so any unusual behavior should be a sign to you. Keep a close eye and just be aware and hopefully you won't have to deal with the foxtail menace!