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Beware of Foxtails in your Cat and Dog’s Fur

Published on June 24, 2015 in Cat Health, Dog Health


As spring moves into summer, foxtail season begins, causing problems for our cats and dogs. Foxtails are grass awns that are prevalent in the Western United States. Foxtails look like barley, and have tiny spikes that easily stick to fur. These small spears travel relentlessly in one direction only, and often wind their way deeper into your pet’s coat and skin. Serious complications can occur if the foxtail is not properly removed.

Foxtails frequently embed in the feet, nose, ears and eyes. They may also lodge in the throat, particularly behind the tonsils.  Foxtails can be found in your pup’s armpits or near his or her genitals. Once under the skin, foxtails can continue to migrate, causing bacterial infection, inflammation and pain. Animals with foxtails under the skin may lick the affected area causing it to become red and inflamed.  Often, removal is straight forward, and does not require anesthetic. Pets occasionally need sedation to remove a foxtail if the extraction has the potential to cause pain. Antibiotics can be used to treat infections caused by foxtails, and pain medication may be indicated if your cat or dog is experiencing any discomfort.

There are steps you can take to reduce your pet’s risk of getting entangled with a foxtail. Keep your pet’s fur trimmed between the toes. Long-haired cats and dogs are most prone to having foxtails attach to their fur and skin. Avoid walking your dog in areas where dry grass is prevalent. When you get home from a walk in an area that might have foxtails, examine your dog between the toes, as well as the rest of his or her body. Check your outdoor cat each day after his or her outdoor adventures. Call Indian Peaks Veterinary Hospital at, (303) 938-9474 if you have any questions.