FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Due to the end of the summer season approaching, foxtails are out in abundance, including at the local dog park.
Ryan Harvey with the City of Fort St. John says they have received reports of the foxtails in the dog park in the past.
Additionally, earlier in the year, he says they did spray for noxious weeds, but foxtails are “notoriously difficult” to get rid of.
“Crews have been regularly mowing in the dog park to help deal with that,” he explained.
The dog park is reportedly on the mowing schedule for this week.
Kelsey Dawley, a North Peace Veterinary Clinic veterinary assistant, says foxtails are everywhere right now.
“The dog park is certainly one place, but everybody has them in their backyards at the moment too, unless they’ve been really, really diligent about cutting them down,” she explained.
“They are a really prolific weed in our area, so we see a lot of them. When they start to get kind of dry and go to seed around this time of year, they’re especially dangerous.”
Dawley explains that they have little barbs that have an “almost little hook” on the end of them, and they burrow into tissue.
“That’s kind of their strategy, how they wanna spread more plants around, but unfortunately, they can get stuck in areas they shouldn’t, like dogs’ mouths,” she said.
Dogs that like to “chomp” on grass as they run or even just run with their mouth open in fields are at risk.
The parts that stick into a dog’s mouth may be hard to see, as they tend to stick closer to the tonsil area, but the signs will be there in how a dog behaves.
“So lots of a hacking cough, like they’re trying to clear their throat but not able to,” Dawley explained.
The cough will appear suddenly and not resolve on its own, and there won’t be any other signs of infection, such as a runny eye or nose, she says.
She says there are a couple of options for treatment, such as more minimal options.
“An anti-inflammatory drug, sometimes bringing down the inflammation and the tissues will just allow those little guys to work their own way out,” she said.
She also adds that large, soft meals may also help clear the throat.
If those options don’t work, that is when vets will have to sedate the dog and remove the “barbs” by hand.
Dawley says that most of the time, no surgery is needed to remove them, but if they migrate to a different part of the body or work deeper in a dog’s paws, it may be required.
She recommends complete avoidance to prevent a dog from getting the foxtail seeds embedded in their throat or paws.
“So just giving them a wide birth as much as possible and pulling out the ones on your own property,” she explained.