a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Foxtail Tales

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Foxtail Tales

SUMMARY: So small, so dangerous
Started with my response to a Facebook post about dogs wearing anti-foxtail covers over their heads.

They can be beautiful, early in the morning, glistening with dew

I've experienced two unpleasant foxtails encounters, and others not so bad, with my dogs. In the early '90s, one evening while out in our big yard, my husky Sheba started sneezing and couldn't stop, and then started sneezing blood. Ran her to the nearby open-at-night emergency vet , where they sedated her and found and removed a teeny tiny foxtail way up in her sinus. Expensive. And of course the toll on the dog.

And Jake, in the late '90s, we were out of town at an agility competition--we went hiking at a nearby lake one evening and the dogs went swimming [this is where I discovered that Remington loved loved loved swimming; that's a different story]. Foxtails in prime sticking form surrounded the trail to the lake. Back at the car, I must've spent half an hour trying to get them out of Jake's long silky coat and tail.

A trail like this: Narrow; foxtails ripe and abundant.
All it takes is the dog to stick his nose into those for just a moment...

There they are, almost ripe and each
seed ready to torture a dog

The next morning, before the agility competition began, he started scratching at his ear (he had long floppy long-haired ears) and shaking his head. He was prone to ear infections, so I always carried special goop from the vet.  I figured he'd gotten water in his ear while swimming and an infection was starting.  Applied goop per the normal schedule. We went to the vet when we got home--actually the next morning when they opened. Vet said, nope not an infection, but was able to pull a foxtail out of his ear fairly easily without anesthesia--he said that's because the goop had softened it so much that it couldn't stick in anything and he could just grab it with long tweezers(?) and glide it out, no anesthesia. Disaster averted.

So, not too expensive, but of course going to the vet just costs.

Tika had extremely dense fur. Like a husky's. Fun fact: Dogs have, on average, 15,000 hairs per square inch. A husky can have up to 83,000.  (Otters have even more!) Tika had such dense hair, particularly with her winter coat, that I'd have trouble seeing even a speck of her skin.  Her hairs were not particularly long--in memory, I think 1-1.5 inches. But they were perfectly straight and, as it turned out, exactly the length and texture of a foxtail seed. When she managed to dash through a field of foxtails, you couldn't *see* whether she had any in her coat, even though she'd have dozens and dozens.  You'd have to hunt. Wrong kind of treasure hunt, but it was what it was. (Not something I encouraged, I assure you.)

Once, when petting her at home, I found a foxtail halfway embedded into her skin. Fortunately, when I tugged gingerly at it, it pulled out fairly easily with minimal blood. I cleaned the spot and added a little neosporin, and no infection. I tried not to think about what might have happened if I hadn't accidentally found it.

"Bubble head" protectors--friends have posted about their dogs wearing them for several years now. Two people today recommended OutFox brand. Expensive. But compared to some of the horror stories shared in comments to that post...

Note: I have so many photos of foxtails! They are gorgeous, actually. These photos came from different years and locations.

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