On occasion, we see pets for emergency care, in between our regular clinics. When I got the call that Teddy was suddenly shaking his head and yelping, I was pretty sure what the problem was.
We were able to pull this enormous foxtail out of his ear without having to anesthetize him, thanks to the expert and gentle restraint of our volunteer nurse, Rodajia. We don't always get so lucky. Often foxtail removal can require full anesthesia at a vet office, and incur up to $500 in cost when all is done.
Foxtails are a California problem. The tall wild grasses that grow in vacant lots, cracks in the sidewalk, and unkempt yards, and wilderness areas develop these wispy whiskered seed pods that detach from the plant, and try to attach to anything passing by. The microscopic barbs lining the hair like wisps cause them to burrow in, and resist backing out.
They can puncture the skin, and burrow in between toes, into ears, up noses, under eyelids, even into nipples and other tender private places. They drag bacteria along with them, causing abscesses and trauma. Best case scenario, they are removed from an ear or an eye, with follow up antibiotics. They can lose an eye, if the foxtail is not removed fast enough, though. Some lose their life after a foxtail that has worked it's way into the airways punctures the lung.
Keep your pets safe this season, and mow and sweep up any foxtails in your yard, avoid walking in wilderness areas with dry grasses, and check your pups ears, in between their toes, and under side. If they have sudden fits of sneezing, especially with discharge or blood from one nostril, suspect a foxtail. This always merits a trip to the emergency vet, as the further they burrow into the nostril, the harder it is to get them out.
Stay safe, friends!