Taking care of a pet is a lot of responsibility.
Beyond the obvious tasks of feeding and watering your animals, you also have to make sure that you comb and groom them, get them vaccinated, make sure they’re getting properly socialized and so much more.
Although the rewards of developing a close relationship with a furry friend are obvious and wide-ranging, there’s still a lot that goes into cultivating that bond.
As it turns out, there’s a new threat out there that dog owners should definitely be aware of.
Although we often let our dogs run and play outside on their own, you may want to do a scan of your property for foxtail grass first.
If you haven’t heard of it before, foxtail grass is a kind of wild grass that’s mostly located on the Western part of the United States. Foxtail grass comes covered in spikelets, namely the sharp and protected part of the plant that carries its seeds.
To protect the integrity of the seeds, they’re covered in a hard and razor-sharp exterior that can create all kinds of problems for dogs.
Having seen some pictures of dog injuries, rest assured that the results are definitely not pretty.
The reason these seeds or “awns” are so dangerous is because they’re biologically designed to burrow into hard ground.
The awns are the tips of this part of the plant, with a long hard spike so that once they’re blown off the plant or scattered by animals, they’ll get pushed into the ground where the seeds can descend and then germinate, spreading more grass.
Although foxtail grass can definitely cause injuries on the outside of a dog, the bigger danger comes when considering internal damage. If your dog or cat likes to chew on wild grass, they could swallow a sharp piece which could puncture the inside of their mouth or even their internal organs.
There are a handful of other specific risks as well.
Although short-haired dogs may be a little bit safer, long-haired dogs are particularly at risk.
If your dog has a long, thick coat, it’s easy for the sharp awns to get tangled up in its fur and accidentally get buried deeper into the flesh. Still, short-haired dogs that have big pointy ears are also at risk—any sharp awns carried by the wind can carry directly into the ear canal in some cases, causing serious damage.
The main thing to know is where to look for foxtail grass, thus avoiding it.
For the most part, these wild weeds are often found in areas that haven’t seen much human activity in a while (which is good news).
Often this means places like landfills, empty lots, mountain trails, open fields and similarly “wild” terrain. If your dog does fall victim to foxtails, not to worry—it’s just best to look out for signs to avoid it altogether. For example, if your dog keeps sneezing repeatedly and unusually, they may have one of the awns stuck in their nose somewhere. Beyond that, excessive pawing at the eyes or other parts of their skin are also tell-tale signs. To protect your animals, be sure to do a sweep of where your dog plays most often and try to avoid bringing your pets to truly wild terrain. And of course, if you suspect your dog has a significant or serious injury from foxtail grass, get them to a vet right away.
Be careful out there, pet lovers!
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