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Dangers of foxtails: How it could hurt, kill your pet

San Diego vet clinics and animal hospitals are busy removing foxtails from dogs and it can be a painful and pricey visit.

SAN DIEGO — A warning for dog owners: we are now in Foxtail season. 

Foxtails are the green weeds growing all over San Diego County, starting to dry out. They can hurt and even kill a dog.  

San Diego vet clinics and animal hospitals are busy removing foxtails from dogs, and it can be a painful and pricey visit.

Three-year-old Joey and his nose are fine today. But earlier this week, his mom and CBS 8 producer, Gina Bertuzzi, had to take him to their local animal hospital. 

Over the weekend, Joey stuck his head in Foxtails, and by Monday, he was sneezing blood. 

“It just can happen so quickly. They put him under anesthesia, went into his nose, and got it out. They looked into his nose with a magnifying glass, and that’s how they found it," Bertuzzi said.

If left untreated, foxtails can do some damage. Shirley Devera-Caldwell works at San Carlos Animal Hospital. She says they’re seeing more foxtail cases than normal. 

“Spines of the foxtails can embed between their toes. A dog can inhale it. A dog can get it in their ears, in their nasal tracks. It can imbed into vital organs, lungs, and brain," Devera-Caldwell said.

The foxtail seeds have barbed ends that can burrow into your pet's skin. Foxtails can be found anywhere on your pet’s body. Symptoms will vary depending on where the foxtail embeds. 

What to look for

  • A foxtail in the ear can cause head shaking and scratching if it’s in your pet’s ear. 
  • Foxtails in the nose will cause a sudden increase in sneezing and perhaps even a bloody discharge. 
  • When foxtails embed between toes, they can cause swelling, and your pet will want to chew and lick at the foot. 
  • Foxtails can even find their way into your pet’s eyes, causing them to squint and be very painful. 
  • If left untreated, foxtails cause major problems. 
  • Foxtails can cause infections and abscesses in the body.   

Treatment can be pricey. For Bertuzzi, it costs $200 for bloodwork to make Joey healthy for surgery and then another $473 for the surgery. A worst-case scenario would involve CT scans to determine if the foxtail has reached the brain or lungs. 

“That really could have done some major damage if we hadn't called the Vet in time,” Bertuzzi said. Thankfully, she did. 


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