Why Foxtails (Grass Awns) are Dangerous for Pets

Posted on June 5, 2015 under Pet Health & Safety

Grass awns also known as fox tails or cheat grass can get stuck in dog and cats eyes, paws, noses, and ears and cause infections.

By Dr. Eva Evans, veterinarian and writer for Pets Best Pet Insurance. A pet health insurance agency for dogs and cats.

As warmer weather arrives, so do the many beautiful blooming native plants. In many areas of the country, certain types of grasses produce grass spikelets. Also called “foxtails” or “cheat grass” these barbed seed heads of the grass plants are small, sticky little plant pieces. Often times, when pets are outside in and around these tall grass plants, they can get the barbed grass awns stuck in all sorts of uncomfortable places.

The most common places for grass awns to get stuck on pets are on are under the eyelid, in the ears, in the nostrils, and between the toes. Here are some signs to watch for.

Foxtail in the Eye
If you notice that your pet is squinting and tearing or pawing at his face, there may be a grass awn wedged under the eyelid causing extreme pain on the eye.

Foxtail in the Nose
Pets that inhale grass awns into their nose tend to sneeze violently due to the irritation in the nostrils that triggers a sneezing reflex.

Foxtail in the Ear
Grass awns can easily get down into the ear canals causing pain, redness, head shaking and scratching at ears.

Foxtail in the Paw
Perhaps one of the most common places that veterinarians see grass awns is between the toes. The barbed end often penetrates the skin and then migrates upward until it is completely under the skin and not visible. The most common signs seen with this are swelling and redness.

The reason these are dangerous is because the grass seed doesn’t break down, so it has to be removed from your pet’s body one way or another. Otherwise it can lead to infection. For instance, often times grass awns that are stuck under the pet’s skin get infected and may ooze pus, blood, or fluid. If you notice any of these signs with your pet, be sure to have them seen by a veterinarian to remove the plant debris before it gets worse!

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