Foxtails are not as cute as they sound. In fact, they are quite the opposite, especially for dog owners like Terri Carlson.
“Stay away from foxtails if you have pets because they are painful for the pet and expensive for you,” she warned.
Carlson had rescued her dog Harley in 2020. She took him for a nice walk but at the end of it, he was favouring his paw and licking it intensely.
When she brought him to the vet, they thought it was just a cut, and since Harley doesn’t particularly like people touching his paws, they didn’t think anything of it until after the antibiotics didn’t work and he still favoured his paw.
A second trip to the vet and upon closer inspection, they found Harley had attracted a foxtail, a barbed weed that sticks to fur. After being sedated to take out the pesky weed, Harley had to spend more time in a cone.
“What we felt the worst about is we didn’t diagnose it properly and he had to suffer for almost two months in a cone which isn’t fun for a dog,” Carlson said.
Carlson and Harley are not alone.
Foxtails are rampant in the city, according to Tara Hudey, owner of Veterinary Mobility Centre.
“People need to know that foxtails is very very common in the environment. It’s not going away, it never goes away, they might have cycles where it may be increased a certain year,” she said.
Megan Jane, spokesperson for Bright Eye Dog Rescue agreed.
“If you look around in parks and even residential neighbourhoods, it is a weed and it’s very prolific,” she said.
Foxtails are common in The Greens, Harbour Landing and even downtown Regina. While antibiotics can’t cure them, it can still be a process for you and your pet.
“So foxtails in itself isn’t toxic to the animal whether it touches them or it comes in contact with their skin or gets ingested— those seeds can get dislodged and then actually embed into different areas,” warned Hudey.
“It’s a summer grass, so very common, very easy to spread. The tricky thing about foxtail weed is the seed heads are actually barbed so they are designed not only to catch onto things and hold onto them but also to burrow in,” added Jane.
Vets in Regina said they see cases of foxtails daily, because the weeds spread and thrive in the heat.
While there is no prevention per-say, the consensus is to stay diligent when walking pets.
“Be aware of what it looks like, and its presence as you are going out in the environment and walking your dog,” cautioned Hudey.
More than that, make sure you check them at the end of a walk, a lesson Carlson preaches.
“If you are walking your dog and you see foxtails, go the other way, and always check them at the end of a walk.”
If you can get a foxtail out of your pet with tweezers, definitely try, but if the whole thing doesn’t come out, or it is in an animals mouth, best practice is a trip to the vet to prevent infection, or further complications.
Finally, Jane said to know what the signs are and to watch for them.
“If you do see your dog kind of doing excessive head shaking, pawing or licking at one particular area over and over, limping or being lethargic, those are all signs that something’s not quite right.”