Earlier this week, Miss Esther shared a photo of her dog Gertie whooping it up on the seasonally tall grass on Bernal Hill. “Gertie loves being in the tall grass!” she said.
At this, you Bernalwood editor experienced a sudden pang of anxiety, even though I don’t own a dog. Looking back through the archives, we recalled that this time last year Neighbor Nicolette had warned Bernal dog-owners about the danger of foxtail grasses:
Foxtails are small plant awns or seed-bearing structures, usually of the genus Hordeum. Starting in the Spring and continuing through the Summer, plants shed them indiscriminately. We started to see a steady flow of foxtail cases in our veterinary practice mid-April, right after several days of heavy winds which helped yank the awns from their plants and spread them far and wide.
Foxtails are shaped like a badminton birdie, but with a pointy instead of a round end. They also have tiny barbs along their shafts. All this adds up to a unidirectional migration pattern; they go in but they don’t come out. The most common problems we see with foxtails are wounds in the paws. Often the owner will just notice a swelling between the toes and think it is a growth or a tumor. After piercing the skin and entering the body, foxtails can actually migrate up the leg, if left untreated. We also see foxtails in noses, ears, and eyes very often.
The most dangerous exposure occurs when dogs inhale them. This typically happens if a dog is porpoising through a field of foxtail plants and inhales one, mouth wide open.
Read the whole thing for further guidance, and consider this a reminder that ’tis the season to be careful.
PHOTO: Gertie in the grass, by Esther