Foxtails in Dogs: Dangers, Symptoms, and Prevention

Les Épillets chez les Chiens : Dangers, Symptômes et Prévention

For dog and cat owners, the health of their four-legged companions is a top priority. Our pets are integral parts of our families, and their well-being is of great concern to us. Therefore, it is crucial to stay informed about the dangers that threaten them to effectively protect them.
Among the many dangers dogs are exposed to, foxtails are often underestimated. Yet, these small dry grasses can cause significant damage to our canine friends. In this article, we will explore in-depth what a foxtail is, why it poses a serious threat, and how you can protect your dog from this menace.

Definition of foxtails: Foxtails, also known as "spigaous," are small dry spikes that easily detach from their stem. These grasses, mainly present in spring and summer, easily cling to the fur of dogs and can penetrate under their skin or into their body cavities.

What is a foxtail?

Physical description of foxtails.

Foxtails are small dry spikes with a pointed end. They are usually a few centimeters long and consist of seeds surrounded by fine awns. Their tapered shape allows them to easily cling to the fur of animals and penetrate under their skin.

Their presence in the environment (fields, parks, gardens): Foxtails are primarily found in fields, parks, gardens, and roadsides. These grasses are particularly present in spring and summer when climatic conditions favor their growth and dissemination.

Seasonality and location

  • Time of year when foxtails are most dangerous: Foxtails are most dangerous from spring to autumn, peaking in summer. During this period, it is crucial to remain vigilant and regularly inspect your dog's coat after walks.
  • Common places where they can be found: Foxtails are commonly found in unkempt grassy areas, meadows, gardens, and even urban parks. They can cling to your dog's fur when it runs or plays in these environments, increasing the risk of penetration and injury.

Why are foxtails dangerous for your dog?

Modes of penetration of foxtails

How foxtails get embedded under the skin or into the body cavities of dogs.

Foxtails have a pointed and tapered shape that allows them to easily penetrate under the skin or into the body cavities of dogs. They cling to the fur and, with the animal's movements, gradually progress into the skin or orifices such as nostrils, ears, and even eyes.

Health consequences

  • Types of injuries caused by foxtails (abscesses, perforations, infections): Foxtails can cause various types of injuries, ranging from abscesses to perforations. Once inside the body, they can lead to severe infections, inflammations, and even significant internal damage.
  • Symptoms to watch for (limping, sneezing, watery eyes): Symptoms to watch for include limping, frequent sneezing, watery eyes, head shaking, and unusual behaviors such as excessive licking of certain body areas.

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Symptoms and diagnosis

Behaviors and clinical signs indicating the presence of a foxtail.

Warning signs include behavioral changes in the dog, such as persistent licking, limping, head shaking, frequent sneezing, and red or watery eyes.

Importance of consulting a veterinarian.

It is crucial to consult a veterinarian as soon as you suspect the presence of a foxtail. Early diagnosis helps avoid serious complications and ensures quick and effective treatment.

Examinations needed to locate and remove foxtails (ultrasound, endoscopy).

Veterinarians may use examinations such as ultrasound, endoscopy, or fibroscopy to locate and remove foxtails. These methods allow precise visualization of the foxtail and assessment of the damage caused.

Protect your dog from foxtails this summer

Treatment and intervention

If you suspect the presence of a foxtail, it is important not to try to remove it yourself. You risk making the situation worse. It is best to consult a veterinarian immediately.

Veterinary interventions

    • Foxtail removal process: The veterinarian will proceed with the removal of the foxtail using techniques suitable for its location. This may include the use of specific instruments and, in some cases, local or general anesthesia.
  • Costs associated with treatments and interventions: The costs of interventions vary depending on the complexity of the removal and the necessary examinations. They can range from 60 to 300 euros or more, depending on the severity of the situation.

How to prevent and preventive measures against foxtails

To prevent foxtails, it is recommended to trim your dog's hair, especially around the paws and ears, and to regularly inspect its coat after walks. Avoid high-risk grassy areas and keep your garden well-maintained.

  • Specific actions for walks and the garden: During walks, keep your dog on a leash in high-risk areas and avoid tall grasses. In your garden, remove dry grasses and mowing remains to reduce the presence of foxtails.
  • Importance of regular grooming: Regular grooming helps detect and remove foxtails before they cause damage. Use an appropriate brush and make sure to carefully inspect high-risk areas.
  • Recommended products and techniques to protect dogs: Use specific grooming products and consult a professional groomer for suitable cuts. Also, consider repellent sprays specifically designed to keep foxtails away.

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In summary, foxtails pose a serious danger to dogs, causing severe injuries and infections. It is crucial to recognize the warning signs, consult a veterinarian quickly, and take preventive measures to protect your companion.
Be vigilant and take the necessary steps to avoid foxtails. Regularly inspect your dog, consult a veterinarian if in doubt, and adopt appropriate grooming practices.

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