The dreaded foxtails are here in full force again. "When the seed heads become brittle and dry, they are treacherous." says Beth Boynton, DVM, FNAP, professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, California. "They have a very sharp and persistent front point, like an arrowhead, and nasty backward spikes that keep the awn moving forward. That's good for burrowing into the ground-and digging deep into animals' skin, eyes, nose, mouth, ears, genitals, and feet."
Shooting up in waves of green during the relatively moist winter season, foxtails begin to dry out in spring, starting around late march on the West Coast. That's when the trouble begins, and it persists until rain arrives in the late fall.
"Foxtails have been seen to migrate from paws up the leg, into the chest, and deep in the ears or nose." Dr. Boynton says. "There are reports of dogs having foxtails that burrowed into the lungs, abdomen or brain."
Frustratingly, foxtails cannot be seen on X-ray, leaving veterinarians to guess at the cause of a dog's unexplained infection. Locating the troublesome awn is akin to finding that proverbial needle in a haystack.
Consider a "foxtail cut", in particular, removing hair from the paw area is important, since the space between the toes is a favorite spot for foxtails to migrate. The same goes for around the ears.
Consider timing, visit foxtail-prone areas in the early mornings. At least in the coastal areas there is some fog that makes the foxtails damp and they don't break off or get sniffed up as easily.
Consider OutFox Field Guard, (outfoxfordogs.com), a black mesh hood that attaches to a dog's collar and covers and protects the entire head.
This information has been obtained from the May 2015 issue of The Whole Dog Journal.
This year Stern Grove seems to have more foxtails than Fort Funston.