"Foxtails are grasses with seed awns that are extremely dangerous to dogs. Foxtail awns are barbed, razor-sharp needles, designed to burrow into the ground with the seed. However, they can also burrow through a dog's skin and enter soft tissue where they can cause serious injury, infection and death.
close up of foxtailFoxtails are found most often on wild barley grasses and grow to be 2 to 5 feet in height and have a top with hairlike needles that ressemble a fox's tail. In some varieties the spikelets (top) look like common barley or rye grass.
Not all foxtails have lethal awns, but grasses such as foxtail barley and foxtail grass have particularly nasty awns. Other kinds of grass, such as Ripgut brome and Canada wild rye, also have potentially dangerous awns.
Like a bullet, a foxtail's torpedo-shaped awns can penetrate any part of a dog's body. The awns most commonly lodge in a dog's nose, ears, underbelly, rear end and paws. Long-haired dogs are particularly susceptible, as the barbed foxtail stays attached to the dog's fur and are difficult to spot in long fur.
Foxtail Barley (hordeum murinum)Once the foxtail awn begins traveling through an animal, they do not break down. A foxtail in a dog's ear can perforate an ear drum. In a paw, it can lacerate the pad and move into the limb. In the nose and mouth, foxtails can eventually migrate towards the lungs.
Muscular movements (or air flow, in the case of nostrils) can cause the foxtails to continue to burrow through soft tissues and organs, causing abscesses and infection that can lead to physical disruption and death.
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