If you live in Lake County, you are probably already familiar with the dreaded foxtail. If you have an outdoor dog or a cat, then you may be all too familiar with the pesky seed heads which can find their way into your pet's skin, ears, nose, and eyes.
These annoying grass awns get caught in your pet's coat and make their way through the dense underfur where they can become embedded in the skin. With time, they can become lodged into the subcutaneous tissues, resulting in a vigorous inflammatory response. A lump will develop, and you may see pus and blood draining from where the foxtail entered the skin. One of the more common locations to get a foxtail is between the toes. The affected toe or toes will quickly become swollen and painful. If suspect that your pet has a foxtail that has become embedded in the skin, schedule a visit with your veterinarian to have it removed. If not addressed quickly, the foxtail can migrate through the tissues leaving inflammation and infection in its wake. They are also much more difficult to find and can even penetrate the chest or abdomen resulting a severe infection that can be extremely difficult to treat.
Foxtails may also find their way into the ear. Signs of a foxtail are head-shaking, scratching at the ears and pain and irritation when attempting to examine the ears. Resist the urge to flush the foxtail out with water or clean the ear with mineral or corn oil. This can make matters much worse if there has been any penetration of the ear drum. Getting oil or water in the inner ear can cause a serious infection and in some cases, hearing loss. If caught early, foxtails are easily plucked from the ear canal, preventing further damage and irritation. Your vet can also determine whether the ear drum is intact, and the best way to treat the ear if any serious damage has occurred.
Dogs may also inhale foxtails into the nasal passages. They will often present with "sneezing fits" and may have a bloody nasal discharge as well. Your pet will need to be heavily sedated in order to have the foxtail removed. In some cases, his nasal passages may need to be flushed with sterile saline if the foxtail cannot be removed manually. Foxtails in the eye are also common and easily removed. They can cause severe corneal ulcerations if not taken care of in a timely manner.
As with all medical conditions, early removal of the offending foxtail is always best. It is often simpler and much less stressful for your pet if treated as soon as you discover that your pet has a foxtail. Your vet can best determine how to treat your dog or cat if you suspect that they have come into contact with this noxious weed!