Foxtail barley – a danger to your dog

Foxtail barley - a danger to your dog

This long, feathery grass is gorgeous, but foxtail barley seeds have tiny barbs that can attach to your dog’s coat and burrow into their skin, ears, and nose. Find out how you can protect it.

If you walk or run your dog in rural areas, be aware that there is a plant called foxtail barley. This tall, feathery grass grows seed heads with tiny barbs that can attach to your dog’s coat and find their way through their skin, pads, ear canals, and nasal cavities. These beards cause a lot of discomfort, and if they go deep, surgery may be needed to remove them. Protect your dog by learning to recognize foxtail barley and taking steps to avoid contact.



What is foxtail barley?

Foxtail barley (Hordeum jubatum) is a native grass found in a variety of habitats across North America, including pastures and fields as well as ditches, fences and roadsides, and in disturbed wetlands. The plant can grow to two feet tall and has a long stem with a bushy, feathered top that resembles a foxtail – hence the name. Green foxtail is common in California, the southern and western United States, Canada and Mexico.

Foxtail barley can sprout in the spring or fall (depending on where you live). After flowering, the grass turns dry and brown, allowing the seed heads to come off easily. The wind can scatter the seeds, just like a dog or other animal rubbing against the plant.





Armed and dangerous

Foxtail barley seeds are arrow-shaped ridges made of razor sharp needles. Nature designed them this way so that they can plant themselves in the ground and start digging below the surface to grow. Unfortunately, they do the same if they come in contact with your dog’s skin, sniffed, ingested, or land in his ears.

“Because foxtail is barbed wire, once it’s encrusted, it can’t come out easily,” says Pippa Hutchinson, a clinical companion animal behaviorist. “If a dog bit the tip, the rest will stick around and move up along an opening such as the nasal or ear canal, or through the skin.”



“The most common foreign body found in the external auditory canal of dogs and cats is the grass ridge,” confirms Richard G. Harvey, author of Dog and cat ear diseases. “In the United States, the most common species of plant bones is Hordeum jubatum. “

In 2011, the Los Angeles Times reported that an emergency room at a northern California veterinary hospital sees 60 to 90 cases per month during foxtail seed season. And in many cases, surgery is needed to remove the ridges of the foxtail. A man noticed his dog sneezing continuously after a run outside. After checking, he saw something in the dog’s nostril. He took the dog to his vet, only to learn that a foxtail bone had attached inside the animal’s nasal cavity and needed to be surgically removed.

Protect your pooch

  1. The best way to protect your dog from foxtail barley is to keep him away from long, dry grasses (this is also a good idea for tick protection).
  2. Contact your veterinarian or regional farm unit and ask if they know of foxtail barley growing in your area and / or learn to recognize it yourself. This way you will know which areas to avoid when walking or hiking with your dog.
  3. Check your dog’s coat and face after each outing in or near tall grass. Immediately remove any visible seeds stuck to his hair and take him to the vet as soon as possible if he begins to sneeze, shake his head, scratch, rub or chew right after a walk. The sooner you get veterinary care for your dog, the easier, less invasive and less expensive the treatment will be.
  4. If possible, try to keep your dog’s hair short, especially around the toes, feet, and armpits. This way the seeds are less likely to cling to it and you will have a much better chance of spotting them.
  5. Several companies have come to the rescue with products specially designed to protect a dog’s head and face against foxtail bones. The Foxtailfree and OutFox Field Guard Hoodies offer lightweight hoods that cover the dog’s head and face, protecting his ears, eyes, nose and mouth while allowing him to breathe, see, sniff and sniff. explore in comfort. The Foxtail Dog Protector protectively fits over the dog’s ears (the ears are one of the most common sites for foxtail seeds).

While foxtail barley is a ubiquitous problem, that doesn’t mean you have to give up hiking through the countryside with your dog. Learning to recognize it and where it grows, and taking a few simple precautions, will help ensure worry-free walks.

Foxtail protection equipment

Foxtail dog protector, foxtaildogprotector.com

Hoodies without foxtail, foxtailfree.com

OutFox field guard, outfoxfordogs.com

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