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Surprising summertime pet health dangers

Posted on: June 11th, 2010 by

By: Dr. Jack Stephens, DVM
Pets Best Insurance President
A small, brown puppy sits in the grassWe.
One of the most costly dangers and causes for dog health care in the summer may surprise you.

Grass Awns, most commonly called “Foxtails,” often become lodged in pets’ fur and can cause severe infection and other pricey pet health problems.

Foxtails, also known as “cheat grass,” come from tall grass that has gone to seed. They have sharp points and are difficult to extract given their barbed shape. They are also the same aggravating plants that get stuck in your socks when walking through high, dry grass and are usually found in vacant lots or overgrown areas.

Foxtails often get stuck in between pets’ toes, inside their ear canals, in their eyes and in extreme cases they can be inhaled through the nose. If this happens, a dog will suddenly have a violent repeated sneezing episode. When they become lodged in fur or other body parts they can cause abscesses which often require surgery and immediate dog health care. Generally, long-haired dogs and dogs with floppy ears are are at a higher risk.

Cats can also get Foxtail infections, but these are not nearly as common, likely because they groom themselves and are able to remove the Foxtails before they become problematic.

Foxtails can also become lodged deeper into the oral cavity, chest cavity or abdomen causing life- threatening pet health problems. Once they migrate into these cavities, major surgery, which can be very expensive without pet insurance, may be required.

Sometimes the Foxtail is so hard to find and has migrated into the pets’ body so deeply, it can require multiple surgeries to locate. The migration may also cause infected tracts that can go into the lungs.

Untreated, these migrations can result in serious pet health problems and even death.

The treatment costs depend on how complicated, how much infection and where the Foxtail ultimately lodges. But the bills can be upwards in the hundreds of dollars for surgery alone, and additional for aftercare and medications.

The ultimate key to preventing the pet health problems caused by Foxtails is brushing and inspecting your pet often and keeping grassy areas where your pet has access well-manicured so Foxtails don’t grow.

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2 Comments

  1. Myrt says:

    How about a picture to show us what to look for?

    • hrush says:

      Grass awns, or “Foxtails” look similar to a piece of dried wheat. Try Googling the term “grass awn” or “cheat grass” so you’ll know what to look for.

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