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Chances are, if you live in San Diego County and have a dog, you enjoy getting outside with your pet and enjoying everything Mother Nature has to offer.  With a temperate climate, sunny days all year long, and an abundance of hiking trails and walking paths, San Diego is a pet lover’s paradise.  Unfortunately for many area pets, Southern California is also the home of several common, abundant, and very dangerous species of plants, commonly referred to as foxtails.

Foxtails are prominent from January to April, but can be found year round.  When the weather begins to warm up and dry up, the foxtail seeds fall away.  Foxtails can be found from the mountains of the east county to the beaches and the coast.  Chances are you have foxtails in your backyard or in your neighborhood.

Because foxtails are sharp, pointed, and barbed they can easily get caught in clothing, fur, and skin.  Foxtails can quickly work their way into a dog or cats skin and are usually found near the paws, ears, head, or tail, although any area is possible.  Foxtails can cause tissue damage, inflammation, and infection.  Since foxtails do not break down within the body and are not visible on x-rays, they can work their way deep into skin and muscle and may even penetrate vital organs, including the heart and lungs.  In extreme cases, foxtails may even cause the death of a pet.

So how do we eliminate or mitigate the damage caused by foxtails?  Obviously, prevention is the first step.  Keep your yard trimmed and free of foxtails.  When walking or exercising your dog off-leash, choose areas that are relatively brush free and stay on paths, where possible.  After taking your dog out, check him or her for foxtails.  Regularly inspect dogs that stay at home, as well as cats, since foxtails may be in your yard or come into your home via your shoes or other clothing.  Groom your pet regularly and keep an eye out for abnormal behavior.  Signs that may indicate a foxtail include redness and swelling, limping, head or ear shaking, and yelping or tenderness when touched in certain spots.

If you suspect your pet has a foxtail, bring them in to Advanced Veterinary Care (AVC) immediately.  Do not wait to see if the problem resolves itself.  The longer you wait, the further the foxtail will work its way in.  Our experienced veterinarians will remove the foxtail, assess the damage, and provide the best care possible to return your pet to great health.