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The Dangers of Barley grass and other Foxtailed seeds to Dogs

The Dangers of Barley grass and other Foxtailed seeds to Dogs

Foxtail barley is a type of grass that looks beautiful – it has long feathery heads on the top of tall stalks. But those seed heads (awns) have tiny, very sticky barbs that pose a real threat to your dog. If you grab one and run your hand along it, you will see why. The seed head is built to go one way – borrowing into the ground to create a new plant. If you run your fingers down the awn starting at the point, it feels smooth, but run your hand the other way and you will feel the sharp, sticky barbs preventing it from easily moving the other direction.

While this mechanism helps the plant spread, it can spell trouble for your dog. Those sharp awns have a way of burrowing into a dog’s ears, paws, nose, eyes, and throat – even open wounds and genitals.


The Foxtail awn then starts to borrow into your dog, depending on where it entered from. For example, a foxtail that is picked up between your dog’s toe pads can work up through the fur, into your dog’s skin and, once inside, can continue to move inside your dog’s body. A major problem? An x-ray won’t show where they are located inside your dog.

Once your dog picks one of these up, there is a wide range of possible problems it can cause.

Just a few of the problems a Foxtail Seed can cause, depending on where on the body it’s picked up or travels to:

· Foxtails inhaled through the nose can make their way into your dog’s brain causing seizures or death.

· Foxtails picked up through the skin can make their way to vital organs, such as piercing their lungs.

· Swallowed Foxtails can get stuck in your dog’s airway. They can puncture the throat or cause them to choke to death. They can cause pulmonary aspiration if they have bacteria on them and get into the lungs.

· Foxtails entering anywhere can cause infection from bacteria and even fungus that are on the Foxtail awn.

· Foxtails in the ears can rupture the eardrum, cause chronic ear infections and can require surgery.

· Foxtails in the eyes can cause blindness.

· Foxtails have even been found to introduce an infection of the spinal vertebra and discs (called Discospondylitits) to dogs.

Various other infections, inflammations and issues can be caused by foxtails. Autopsies on deceased dogs have found Foxtails in practically every vital organ including heart, brain, lungs, liver, and glands.

How To Protect Your Dog From Foxtails

The easiest way is to just not walk your dog when Foxtails awns are germinating. But obviously that’s not always realistic. If you must walk your dog in areas you know to contain Foxtail, be sure to:

1. Brush your dog thoroughly after each walk and look for Foxtails. Pay special attention to paws, ears, eyes, nose, and genitals.

2. For long-haired dogs, trim up the fur on the paw pads and legs to give the Foxtails less to grab onto.

3. If you have Foxtails in your own property, pull them out (mowing won’t work!)

Most importantly, monitor your dog during this time of year. Pay attention if they are chewing a paw, licking an area, hacking or trying to vomit (or are vomiting), scratching an ear incessantly, or any other sign that something is irritating them. If you suspect a Foxtail has made its way into your dog, an immediate veterinarian visit is your only option. And don’t delay thinking it might work its way out. While some do find their way back out through the skin, many end up causing major problems that require surgery and can kill the dog. When it comes to Foxtails, it’s definitely a good idea to err on the side of caution.



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