Going out on a walk with your dog or letting your cat roam freely may not seem like a big deal, but with spring on its way, there could be a serious risk out there to your pet's well-being. Believe it or not, this risk is a simple weed that's common across the United States. This guide will explain what this threat is, how it can harm your pet, and what you can do to protect your pet.
If you've been in overgrown areas, chances are you've seen foxtails. They're spiky, cone-shaped weeds that tend to get stuck to clothing and fur. Unfortunately, the general shape and stickiness of foxtails is what makes them so dangerous for pets. If your pet walks through a bunch of foxtails, some will probably stick to their fur, which sets them up for the next two dangers you're about to learn about.
Stomach, Mouth, and Throat Damage
When a foxtail gets into a pet's fur, they might try to remove it or lick themselves. This can allow the foxtail to get into your pet's mouth where it can wreak havoc. Foxtails can become embedded in the walls of the mouth, esophagus, and stomach. At best, the foxtails cause discomfort and minor infections and will need to be removed. However, at worst, the foxtails can actually penetrate through the flesh they've become embedded in, causing serious tissue damage. Worse still, if the foxtail has made it to your pet's stomach, it could potentially create a hole in the wall of the stomach, allowing digestive acids to escape into your pet's abdomen, where it could cause severe harm to neighboring organs.
Even if your pet doesn't lick or eat the foxtail, just having the foxtail in the pet's fur can be dangerous. This is because once it's in the fur, the foxtail will often embed itself into your pet's skin. From here, it can cause dangerous skin infections or actually burrow further into the body. While the foxtail doesn't have a mind of its own, the movements of your pet's muscles as they walk, stretch, and climb can propel a foxtail forward into the skin.
Foxtails have been found to actually penetrate so far that they cause lung infections. Needless to say, if you see a foxtail in your pet's fur, remove it right away.
Avoiding the Problem
Ideally, your pet should never encounter any foxtails in order to protect their health. However, this may not be practical advice. Instead, consider avoiding walking your dog in areas that have overgrown grasses and weeds. Stick to areas with paved roads you can walk on, or well-kept parks or yards.
For cats, try to limit the amount of time your cat is allowed to stay outside and make sure that your yard is free of foxtails. You may need to use herbicide in order to kill the foxtails permanently, but it will be worth it to protect your cat from being harmed.
Foxtails can pose a serious risk to dogs and cats, so avoid them at all costs. Examine your pet after they go outside for foxtails and avoid areas that contain foxtails when you go on walks. Doing so could protect your pet's well-being or even their life. If you suspect that foxtails have already started causing damage to your pet, take them to a place like East Lake Animal Clinic.