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When mature, the seeds detach easily from the plant. This is natures way of making sure that the plant reproduces. The seeds easily cling to clothing, fur, and hair. The seeds always move forward thus penetrating the skin.
The seeds found in the ears, eyes and nose are very serious and can become life threatening. But no body part is immune. The seeds have been found in the urethra, vagina, anal glands, brain, and spinal cord. In one case a veterinarian found the seed in the lung but the original site of entry was the paw. The seeds also gain entry through open wounds.
Foxtail seeds are very tiny so veterinarians usually go by symptoms. If in the nasal cavity, the dog sneezes repeatedly and violently often hitting the nose on the floor. If a bloody discharge is noticed assume it's a foxtail seed. If in the eye, the dog paws at the eye and the eye waters. If an eye is glued shut it is most likely a foxtail seed.
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If the seed is in the ear the dog shakes its head violently from side to side. Sometimes the dog paws at the eyes or ear, shaking the head and squints. In the mouth foxtail seeds can cause gagging or difficulty swallowing. If the seed gets caught between the teeth, in the gums, back of throat, or tongue problems can result.
If the seed lodges in the paw or under the coat a lump will form that is painful to the touch. Other symptoms include rubbing the head on the ground and going round in circles, licking or biting at the rectum or other body parts, or yelping or shining for no obvious reason. Foxtail seeds can cause fatalities when they reach internal organs.
In any case, do not attempt to treat the animal yourself. Get professional help. Get rid of all foxtail in your lawn or yard. If foxtail grows in your yard mow the grass often, especially in late spring when the plant grows most rapidly. This prevents the plant from ever setting seed.
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Avoid parks, or other recreational areas where you know foxtail grows. Always brush and inspect your dogs coat after being in grassy areas. Dogs with long hair are even more likely to attract the seeds than shorthaired breeds. Examine your dogs eyes and ears.
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