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Our canine companions enjoy munching on grass now and then to supplement their diets with fiber, soothe an upset tummy or simply occupy themselves when bored. Unfortunately, sometimes that grass consists of foxtails, which have very pointy bristles. This type of grass, while non-toxic, is very dangerous to Fido if ingested because of these prickly bristles, which can cause severe gastrointestinal damage.
Dogs are omnivores, eating both meat and vegetable matter, including grass and outdoor plants. Some dogs may eat grass, including foxtail grass, to induce vomiting if their stomach is upset, while others may simply enjoy the taste of the grass. In many cases, your pooch may just need a little extra fiber in his diet, which he obtains from the plant matter he eats outdoors, according to PetMD. Dogs with a condition called pica, in which pooches eat non-food items such as grass, eat grass to satisfy this strange addiction or may suffer from a nutritional deficiency that the grass provides, according to WebMD.
Foxtail grasses are members of the Poaceae family, including the Alopecurus and Hordeum species, which produce serrated seed awns that cover the tops of the grass blades. Typically found in unattended yards or public parks, these tall grasses, ranging in height from 1 to 3 feet, initially appear soft. As the grasses dry out, though, the arrow-shaped seed awns become sharp and dangerous to your pooch. These sharp awns can burrow under your pup's skin, into his ears, nose, mouth or lungs, veterinarian Dr. Tom Suplizio, of the Animal Medical Clinic, told KKCO 11 News. The prickly seeds also become trapped in your pup's fur, causing him to lick them off, ingesting them and leading to some serious problems in his gastrointestinal tract.
Whether your pup has accidentally ingested foxtails by licking them off of his coat or he purposely ate the plants outdoors, you need to get him to the vet right away for treatment. The sharp foxtail awns can become embedded in your pup's mouth, throat or anywhere along the gastrointestinal tract, leading to tissue damage, chronic bacterial infections or even death in some cases, warns The Bark. Your vet will likely inspect your pup's mouth and throat for signs of the foxtail awns. While she may take X-rays, these awns usually don't show up on them and require more exploratory surgery to remove, according to the Whole Dog Journal. She might also prescribe antibiotics to treat any infections caused by the awns.
Keep your dog away from foxtail grasses altogether to prevent any issues with your pooch ingesting them or even just getting awns stuck in his skin. Brush your pup's fur to remove foxtails from it daily after outdoor walks. While some species of foxtails are considered ornamental, avoid adding these to your landscape, instead opting for dog-safe plants. This is especially important if your pooch shows a propensity for eating vegetation around your yard. Add a bit of fiber to your pup's diet, in the form of bran or even some yummy veggies like carrots, broccoli or sweet potatoes to discourage grass eating in general.
By Susan Paretts
PetMD: Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?
Illinois Wildflowers: Meadow Foxtail
Animal Planet: How Can You Tell if Your Dog has Foxtails?
The Bark: Protecting Your Dog Against Foxtails
KKCO 11 News: Rampant Foxtail Weeds Pose Danger to Dogs
Dogster: What are Foxtails and Why are They Dangerous?
The Whole Dog Journal: Beware of Foxtail Seeds This Summer
WebMD: Foxtail Grass and Your Dog
WebMD: Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?
Calflora: Hordeum jubatum L.
University of California, Berkeley -- The University and Jepson Herbaria: Poaceae Grass Family
About the Author
Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, crafts, television, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared in "The Southern California Anthology" and on Epinions. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.