Fox tails

Foxes in the 'Hood
Foxes in the ‘Hood

No, not that kind–we like those fox tails. I’m talking about those treacherous weeds with barbed seed heads that can cause as sorts of havoc with dogs.   See those innocent looking long stalks ending in a cluster of spikes  resembling a fox’s tail? They can be trapped in a dog’s coat and burrow deep into the skin. This year they seem particularly bad after some recent rains and seem to have sprouted much sooner than past years.

Insideous and quite dangerous bastard!
Insideous and quite dangerous bastard!

Generally found west of the Mississippi (though increasingly moving eastward), these innocent enough looking weeds can be really risky for dogs. Mother Nature cleverly designed those barbed heads to attach to critters thus ensuring the spread of the seed.

The barbs are particularly menacing as they only move in one direction–always forward, never backward. They burrow deeper and deeper into the fur. Noses, ears, between the toes, under the collar or armpits are the most frequently found spots. Removal from fur as soon as possible is important since they can be quite difficult to remove once they penetrate the skin. Those barbs can burrow deep into the skin and if not treated, can journey throughout the body. A dog sniffing the ground can easily inhale them into their noses or get them caught in their ears and if not treated immediately, can result in serious problems resulting in an expensive visit to a vet.

Sam’s not much of a licker so when I noticed him licking a spot I knew right away something was irritating him. After a close examination, I discovered one of those nasty little buggers. There are a few spots of this devil weed in our neighborhood so we probably picked one up along our strolls. Because Sam loves to sniff along the sidewalk I have to keep a close eye on him since they can easily attach to his finely textured, curly coat. Now that the weather has warmed up, those seeds are starting to turn a lovely shade of wheat—pretty much the same color as Sam, which makes them very difficult to see. Whenever we come in from a walk, I run my hands over his coat for a couple reasons. One, he likes it, and two, to ferret out any grass, weeds or other evil hitchhikers on his coat. Obviously, I missed that one. Those nasty barbs stick like Velcro. Once located, I have to either break it apart piece by teeny little piece or try to remove it with tweezers. It can be a royal pain to get him to sit still long enough and try to remove it especially when his hair is longer but it’s so critical to persevere. He always seems relieved to be rid of the sinister little seed head and then in true Sam style, merrily moves on to the next moment. Joie de vivre is his life mantra. 🙂

Looks like Mom was right, never pick up hitchhikers. They can be especially dangerous to our fur babies. Obviously the best way to handle the bad kind of foxtails is to be ever vigilant and remove them quickly.

Do you have foxtails in your neck of the woods? What’s your strategy dealing with them?