If you live in Southern California and have dogs, you are probably aware of foxtails. But, in case you are new to the area, have a new pet or are walking or hiking in a different area, I’d like to share a little information. This occurred to me over the past week when I noticed the nasty weeds popping up in my own back yard. Spring has sprung, indeed.
Foxtails are a feature of many grasses that grow locally. The distribution in my yard is fairly sporadic, but it’s common to see areas along sidewalks that get overrun. I snapped the above photo on Alvarado near Sunset in Echo Park earlier this evening.
The plant becomes problematic when it dries out (see photo below) and the seeds break off.
The danger of foxtail seeds is that they are barbed, so when they get stuck in a dog’s coat, they work their way in and get stuck. Paws, ears and nostrils are particularly vulnerable. They can embed under the skin and have been known to get under eyelids, in throats, etc. The bottom line is these nasty things can cause pain, bleeding, infection and rather substantial vet bills. If you have foxtails on your property or walk your dog(s) in area where they grow, inspect the paws, ears and fur daily. They are difficult to eradicate, especially if you don’t want to use harsh chemicals. During the spring, summer and fall, I pull the plants out of the ground by hand on a daily basis. Even with my vigilance, my dogs have had a couple of instances of needing some minor vet attention due to a foxtail lodged in a paw or an ear.
P.S. I read that outdoor cats are also at risk, it is much lower due to their grooming habits.