Foxtail Grass: How It Can Kill Your Dog

Foxtail plants are weeds that look like grass and are mostly found in the Western part of the United States. Foxtails may look harmless, but they can potentially kill dogs. They have barbed seed heads that can get stuck into ANY part of your German Shepherd. Not only can they dig into your German Shepherd’s skin, but they can also get stuck in the nose or throat.

The problems that come with foxtails go beyond simple itchiness or irritation. Foxtail seeds do not break down or decompose inside the body, and when it becomes embedded,a serious infection may occur.If left untreated, death may follow.

Signs Your German Shepherd Has Foxtails

Foxtails can travel – moving only in a forward direction. They can dig through your German Shepherd’s skin or get inhaled into the lungs. In worst cases, they can migrate from inside the nose to the brain. When foxtails get embedded into the skin, it can cause abscesses, discharge, pain, swelling, and deadly infection. Here are some signs your German Shepherd has foxtails:

  • Eyes – Inflamed and swelling eyes that may come with redness and discharge. When a foxtails get stuck in the eyes, your German Shepherd may try to scratch and paw his eyes in an attempt to get it out. If you think your German Shepherd has foxtails lodged into his eyes, please seek veterinary care immediately.
  • Ears–Foxtails can also get into the ears as well. So if you see your GS tilting and scratching his ear persistently, foxtails may be present inside of one or both ears. Foxtails can get lodged deep inside the ear canal so you may not be able to see it. Your veterinarian will most likely use a special scope to check your German Shepherd’s ears. They can also get stuck the ear pockets.
  • Nose– Incessant sneezing – that may or may not be bloody – could be a sign of a foxtail lodged inside the nose.
  • Throat –When the foxtail passes through the nose or mouth, it can reach your dog’s throat. It can get embedded in the throat tissues and can cause irritation. This will make your Labrador cough.
  • Internal organs – Yep, foxtails can get into your dog’s internal organs, and this may cause internal bleeding and infection – causing your dog to lose appetite and whine due to pain.
  • Genitals – Yep, foxtails could get inside dogs’ genitals so if you see your German Shepherd constantly licking his or her genitals, foxtails may be stuck near or inside the area.
  • Skin –Foxtails can get embedded and camouflaged under a layer of fur. If you notice a bump your German Shepherd keeps biting, check the area as a foxtail may have gotten embedded into the skin.
  • Feet –Foxtails can get easily lodged in between your German Shepherd’s toes. Check for foxtails if you see your German Shepherd limping or is incessantly licking his paws.
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Preventing FoxtailsFrom Harming Your German Shepherd

If you’re living in the west half of the United States, foxtails could be a problem. German Shepherds love the outdoors, and they can get foxtails from fields and any random grassy area. Make sure to examine your German Shepherd’s ears, coat, feet, nose, and fur during foxtail season, which usually falls from May to December. Brush your German Shepherd’s coat after coming from forests, fields, and other grassy areas. This way, you can check your German Shepherd not only for foxtails but also for ticks or random cuts and injuries. Do not forget to check the mouth, gums, paws and in between the toes.

If foxtails are present, use tweezers to remove them. But if the foxtail is embedded deeply or is already swelling, a trip to theveterinarian is necessary. Foxtails cannot come out on their own, and since they only move forward, they can get into the throat, intestine,eardrums, lungs, brain, and even the spine.

There is no perfect way to prevent your German Shepherd from getting foxtails aside from keeping out of overly grassy areas. The best way to prevent problems foxtails bring, is to detect their presence in your German Shepherd’s body. You may also consider trimming your German Shepherd’s hair during foxtail season.

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