This winter has been quite the flu season! Many of us were ill thanks to the dreaded human flu, and we’re glad to finally be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s interesting that canine flu has recently become a focus, especially in dog loving circles. And while it’s not seasonal, and it’s not new, there are a few things that the team at Felton Veterinary Hospital thought you should know about this disease that affects our best friends.
Canine Flu Basics
There are two strains of Canine Influenza Virus (CIV). The most recent strain (H3N2) was identified following an outbreak in March of 2015 and affected dogs in the Chicago area. There have now been a few thousand cases of H3N2 reported in 30 states. There’s no evidence that H3N2 can infect people.
CIV is spread through aerosolized droplets that are spread from dog to dog through coughing, sneezing, and barking. Dogs in close living quarters are most at risk – those dogs who go to the groomer, spend time at daycare, or go to a boarding facility. CIV can also be spread indirectly through shared objects such as food and water bowls, leashes and collars, and people who have been in contact with infected dogs.
Common signs of canine flu include:
- Nasal discharge
Infected dogs usually show signs of the disease 2 – 8 days after being infected. Most dogs have a mild form of the disease, but some can exhibit more serious signs, including pneumonia, high fevers, and increased respiratory effort.
Disease symptoms are very similar to kennel cough and other canine respiratory illnesses, and risk factors are also similar. For these reasons, the only diagnosis for CIV is through an advanced blood test.
Treatment for CIV is largely supportive; nursing care and good nutrition can help your dog mount an effective immune response. Most dogs recover in 2 – 3 weeks. If your dog is geriatric, a short-faced breed, pregnant, or at risk of tracheal collapse, we will discuss other treatments that may be recommended.
Because the disease is spread so easily between dog to dog, it is recommended that infected dogs be isolated (even those in the same household) for 4 weeks.
Protect Your Dog
Prevention of canine flu takes a village! First, if your dog is exhibiting any of the signs of CIV, isolate them right away. Call us to come in – and be aware that we may ask you have your dog wait with you in the car until we can see you. We want to prevent the possibility of infecting any dogs in the waiting room.
Dogs who are social and go to dog parks, groomers, boarding or daycare facilities are more at risk. But it doesn’t mean your pup can’t go about their daily activities. If your pet is high risk, consider these precautions:
Ask us about vaccination – there is a vaccine now that prevents both strains of canine flu. Like the human flu vaccine, it’s not 100% – it may not prevent your dog from getting CIV. But, it has been shown to minimize symptoms and shorten the duration of the disease.
Practice good hygiene – don’t allow your pet to share objects such as toys or food/ water dishes with unfamiliar dogs. Wash your hands often. And, change and wash your clothes if you’ve been in contact with new dogs as the virus can survive on objects.
Assess the risk – if your pet is immune compromised, geriatric, or very young, it might be wise to assess if social activities with unfamiliar dogs is worth the risk. Talk to us – we’re happy to help you make this decision.
If you feel your pet is sick, it’s important to have them examined right away. By taking some extra precautions, being aware, and by vaccinating, you’ll be on the right track to preventing CIV in your dog.
Spring has definitely sprung in the San Lorenzo Valley, and if you’re like us, you and your pets can’t wait to get outside more and more. But before you head outside this spring and summer for gardening, trips to the dog park, hiking, and general frolicking, let’s get up to date on parasite prevention.
When the Felton flora and fauna wake up from their winter slumber, you better believe that parasites are awake, too. However, we’ve also noticed that mosquitoes, fleas, and even ticks are even more resilient than ever, and with overall warmer winter temperatures and their ability to overwinter indoors (think: your garage, your shed, your house!), we’re now recommending parasite prevention and control all year round. Here’s more from Felton Veterinary Hospital about why prevention is your best medicine.
Flea and Tick Prevention
Fleas and ticks are external parasites that can cause extreme discomfort and serious illness in pets and in people.
In our area, fleas are prevalent due to the semi-rural nature of mountain living – lots of wildlife close by ensures that fleas have plenty of carriers. That, coupled with the number of domestic pets that are outdoors much of the time, leads to flea problems that can get out of control quickly! Pets can be made really uncomfortable by fleas, and fleas contribute to the spread of tapeworms and cat scratch fever (bartonellosis).
Fleas can also cause a severe allergic reaction in some pets, known as Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD). Pets with FAD are really miserable, and even one flea bite can cause pets with this condition to suffer. Hair loss, incessant itching, and raw, painful skin can result.
Ticks are also found in abundance in the San Lorenzo Valley. They are most prevalent in early spring and fall, but are well adapted to live throughout the year. Ticks live in grassy areas or in brush and dark, moist areas where they wait for a host to walk by. They then crawl onto your pet and bite, attaching for up to several days while they feed.
Tick bites can be painful and irritating, and can even become infected. But of more serious concern are the diseases that can be transmitted by a tick bite. These include:
- Rocky Mountain spotted fever
- Lyme disease
These diseases can be serious, complicated, and painful and can affect your pet’s health for months or even years. Many of them also affect humans, so it’s important to test your pet regularly for tick transmitted disease to know if you may also be at risk.
Luckily, flea and tick prevention for your pet is easy, safe, and affordable. We recommend a monthly preventive and offer both topical or chewable alternatives. Talk to us about your pet’s lifestyle at their next preventive care exam, and together we can form a plan of attack.
Heartworm infection is a deadly disease for both dogs and cats. It is transmitted by a single mosquito bite, and can take months to show symptoms in your pet. Signs of heartworm disease include lethargy, exercise intolerance, and sudden onset coughing.
When an infected mosquito bites your pet, it transmits the heartworm larvae into your pet’s bloodstream. These microfilaria travel to your pet’s heart and the arteries of the lungs, where they mature into foot long adult heartworms. Heartworms can live for 2-3 years in the cat, and 5-7 years in the dog, and during that time they wreak havoc on your pet’s heart, lungs, and other organs. Left untreated, heartworm disease is fatal in all cases – cats, and dogs.
Heartworm disease has been endemic in the San Lorenzo Valley since the 1940’s, largely due to our climate of lots of winter moisture followed by warm spring and summer temperatures. Mosquitoes are extremely resilient, and they love this climate as much as we all do, and unfortunately we have treated literally hundreds of heartworm cases over the last 10 years.
Heartworm treatment for dogs is long, expensive, and very involved. There is no approved treatment for cats. For these reasons, we recommend heartworm prevention all year round.
Preventives are available in topical (Revolution) or chewable (Heartgard) form, and and are effective and easy to give. Heartworm testing every year is also recommended for each pet, as the heartworm life cycle can take up to 8 months to complete.
Don’t make the mistake of letting your pet’s parasite preventives lapse or fall away. This is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to keep your pet healthy and happy. If you’ve let things slide this winter, give us a call and let us help you get back on track. We’re here to help!
Our four legged friends tend to be active and adventurous, and we love that about them! However, at times they can – shall we say – “get into things” that they shouldn’t. Hopefully your pets have never ingested anything that caused a pet emergency, but it’s always great to be prepared!
As we spring into spring, we’re all itching to get outside. It’s amazing (and somewhat scary!) how many potential poisons are in and around the average garden, yard, and home. With that in mind, Felton Veterinary Hospital has put together here a few tips and ideas for how to prevent pet poisoning at home.
Pet Toxicity 101
First, a few basics on pet poisoning. Poisons act fast, so if you feel your pet has ingested something potentially toxic, you should act fast, too. Give us a call or come in right away – don’t spend time on the internet trying to figure things out or leave a voicemail for your veterinarian. If it’s after hours, seek emergency care immediately.
Pet poisoning signs can be subtle at first, and may not even show up until several days after your pet ingests something toxic. Signs that your pet may experience include:
- Pawing at the mouth
- Pale or grayish gum color
- Racing heartbeat
- Weakness/ collapse
- Difficulty breathing
- Muscle tremors
- Excessive thirst or urination
Prevent Pet Poisoning in Your Home
Awareness is key when considering items in your home that you’ll want to keep out of your pet’s reach. This is a basic list, and is not exhaustive – so if you have any questions, let us know.
People food — people foods such as chocolate, bread dough, fatty table scraps, onions/garlic/chives, raisins and grapes, macadamia nuts, and xylitol (sometimes found in peanut butter) can all be toxic to pets.
Medications — keep all human medications far from pets! Some can be especially toxic to them. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and Ibuprofen (Advil) are two medications found in many medicine cabinets that can cause big problems for pets. Keep human and pet medications separate, read the labels each time you give medication to your pet to make sure it’s the right one, and be on the safe side – don’t share unprescribed medication between pets.
Flowers and plants — there are certain flowers and plants commonly used around the home that can be toxic and even deadly to pets, such as lilies and cyclamen. The safest flowers and plants to use in homes with pets are of the silk or cloth variety – and even those should be out of curious cat’s reach!
Cleaning supplies and chemicals — you may have guessed that some cleaning supplies and chemicals can be irritating to pets noses and mouths, and can also be toxic if ingested. Ventilate your home well when cleaning, keep pets away from “helping” you when you clean, and keep all cleaning supplies and chemicals out of their reach.
Essential oils and liquid potpourri — essential oils and liquid potpourri can be damaging to pets’ organs and toxic if ingested. In addition, even the aromatherapy smells you like can be very irritating and potentially harmful to pets. Talk to us before using any essential oils around (or on) your pets, and give them a way to “escape” diffused smells.
Pet Poison Prevention in Your Yard and Garden
With rain (finally!) and spring approaching, it’s important to realize how many things in your yard and garden might pose a poisoning risk to your pets. Common sense and precaution are good watchwords, and again, if you think your pet has eaten something poisonous, don’t wait to seek treatment.
Here’s a basic list of things to watch for.
- Bone and blood meal
- Mushrooms – which often bloom after the rain!
- Cocoa mulch
- Rat and mouse poison
- Snail bait
We’re always available to help if you need assistance with questions about pet poisoning. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control hotline is also a great resource to keep close by. Give us a call if you have any questions or want more ideas about pet poison prevention in your home and yard.
Welcome to Felton Veterinary Hospital’s pet care blog! Please sit tight while we work on our first post!
Many of us love to give our pets a daily dental chew or treat. After all, we like to give them treats (and see their eyes light up with love) and we like to do something good for their teeth and oral health. But did you know that some of the very commonly advertised “oral health” products on the market are either unhelpful, unsafe, or downright bad for our pets?
At Felton Veterinary Hospital, we looked into this recently and found that not all dental chews and treats are created equal. And we bet you can’t wait to hear what we found out!
At Home Dental Care
First things first. There are many, many dental products on the market today. Some of them even advertise that they can take the place of brushing and dental cleanings. But the evidence shows that your first and best defense against bad breath, swollen gums, plaque, and periodontal disease is a dental exam and cleaning with your veterinarian, coupled with daily toothbrushing. Dental chews and treats can be a good addition to your pet’s daily oral health routine. But they shouldn’t be used in place of tooth brushing and regular professional dental cleanings.
Dental Chews and Treats
We mentioned that not all dental chews and treats are created equal. Luckily, there is an organization that has given it’s seal of approval to some of the treats and chews available today. The Veterinary Oral Health Council is an organization that evaluates pet products to see if they meet standards for reducing plaque and tartar. Make sure the dental chew or treat you offer your pet has their seal of approval.
However, be aware that although veterinary dentists find the VOHC approved products safe and effective, the VOHC does not test specifically for safety. Don’t leave your pet alone with any chew or treat, and be aware of risks when giving anything to your pet.
Precautions With Dental Chews and Treats
There are some dental health treats advertised which are downright unsafe, or full of fat and unwholesome ingredients that are bad for your pet. Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a dental treat for your pet. If you have questions, call us.
Rawhide bones — these can be effective against plaque and tartar, but can also be swallowed in large chunks by some dogs, putting them at risk for gastrointestinal obstruction – and possibly a surgery. Rawhides are also quite high in fat, so watch your pet carefully, make sure they actually chew them, and limit calories in other places if you give one.
Avoid dried pig ears and hard bones — in addition to high fat content (which could push some dogs into pancreatitis), hard chews, hard plastic bones, sterilized beef bones or cow hooves are likely to cause tooth fractures and other problems.
Cooked bones — these are too hard and unyielding to offer any plaque prevention, and they could cause a tooth fracture or a gastrointestinal perforation or obstruction.
It is generally accepted that chews and treats that are soft and allow the teeth to sink in are the most effective against periodontal disease. Give us a call if you have any questions about your pet’s dental care and health. We’re here to help make sure your pet stays healthy and happy!
Most of us are not exactly excited about looking into our pet’s mouths (I only see 2 teeth – the fangs!). But when it comes to pet dental care, the saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is absolutely true. It has been reported that by 3 years of age, 85% of cats and dogs have some form of dental disease. Felton Veterinary Hospital is here to give you the basics of this common but preventable problem.
First, the true nitty gritty. You brush your teeth twice a day (right?) and still visit your dentist for a cleaning twice a year. Imagine what your mouth would feel like if you never brushed or saw the dentist! It’s true that our pets’ teeth don’t have to look picture perfect, but keeping their teeth and gums clean and healthy can be one of the most beneficial things you can do as a pet owner to keep them happy and healthy for longer.
What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease begins when bacteria in the mouth form plaque, which, left unchecked, accumulates along the gum line and then causes inflammation called gingivitis. Plaque hardens into tartar along the gum line, but the real problems start when bacteria travel below the gum line.
When that occurs, inflammation and infection can affect the internal structures of the tooth, root, and even the bone beneath. Periodontal disease in its more severe stages can cause tooth fracture or loss. Unfortunately if periodontal disease is left untreated, bacteria can also find its way into the pet’s blood stream and can affect the heart, liver and kidneys, while making diseases such as diabetes harder to manage. Sadly, periodontal disease has been linked to a shorter life span for our pets.
What are the Signs of Periodontal Disease?
Like people, pets as individuals have different signs of disease based on age, temperament, breed, and overall general health. Although you may hear it often, a pet has to have extreme dental disease in order to refuse to eat. It’s just not that common! Earlier and more common signs of periodontal disease include:
- Bad breath
- Red or bleeding gums
- Difficulty chewing (which may look like messy eating)
- Pawing at the mouth
- Loose teeth
- Swollen or recessed gums
How is Periodontal Disease Prevented?
Luckily, periodontal disease is preventable. The very best way to prevent it is to brush your pet’s teeth daily. We know, we can see the collective eye roll. But before you give us the total brush off (ahem!), hear us out. There are all sorts of fancy toothbrushes out there, but in reality the most important thing is that the brushing happens. So we are all for making it simple. We can show you how to brush your pet’s teeth, and it can be with a regular pet toothbrush, finger brush, or even by using your finger wrapped with gauze (assuming this would be safe to do with your pet).
Of course starting early with your puppy or kitten can get them used to brushing early in life, and can therefore become a ho-hum daily process for them. There are some (not all!) dental chews, diets (such as Hills Dental Diet T/D), washes, and treats that can help too. Your veterinarian may recommend one of these as an addition to your at home dental program. But, there really is no substitute for brushing!
The frequency of the need for professional dental cleanings will be based on your pet’s age, breed, stage of dental disease, and overall general health. Most pets need a cleaning every 3-4 years. During a dental cleaning under anesthesia, your pet’s entire mouth will be effectively evaluated. Their teeth and gums will be assessed, and problem areas will be recorded. Any teeth that cannot be saved will be removed, with your permission. The teeth will be cleaned above and below the gum line, where periodontal disease does it’s dirty work. And, your pet’s teeth will be given a polish to prevent future plaque buildup.
A Word About Anesthesia
Many clients are worried about anesthetic risk. It’s the single most common reason that pet owners put off preventive dental cleanings for their pets. But thanks to advancements in anesthesiology, we have made this procedure safer than ever. It’s true there is a risk with any anesthesia, but if you’re concerned, talk to us and we can show you how we’ve made anesthesia as safe as possible for your beloved friend – less than 0.1% of patients seen at Felton Veterinary Hospital have anesthetic complications!
An Ounce of Prevention
Remember that we started with this old adage? We hope you see now how true it is, with pet dental care. For more information or if you have questions, give us a call. We’re always happy to answer questions about your pet’s health and happiness.
Have you made any New Year’s resolutions yet? 2017 has wound down, and with 2018 just beginning it’s a great time to look ahead and think about what we want to do differently this year. Maybe you want to eat better, hit the gym more frequently, and enjoy life more? Well, why not include your pet in some of your new year’s resolutions? Not sure where to start? The team at Felton Veterinary Hospital has you covered. Below are some ideas for New Year’s resolutions for pet owners, to get the New Year started off right for your pet.
Feed the Best Quality Diet You Can
Is one of your resolutions to eat better? Our pets are no different! Feeding a high quality, balanced diet can do so much to lengthen their lives and help keep them healthy and feeling great. There are so many diet options out there, but each pet is an individual. So, talk to us about your pet’s nutrition needs at your next preventive care appointment.
Extra credit: Measure your pet’s food each and every time you feed, to prevent unwanted weight gain. Ask us for a free pet food measuring cup!
Establish a Daily Grooming Routine
Not every dog and cat needs a daily brushing (although some do!), but establishing a daily rub down or brushing has many benefits. Of course, one is that removing loose hair means fewer hairballs across your living room floor!
But grooming has other benefits too. During these daily sessions, you’ll become familiar with your pet’s body, and any lumps, bumps, or changes will be more easily noticed. The sooner you can have your veterinarian check things out, the sooner action can be taken, and early detection of disease can often mean a better prognosis.
Stay on Track with Preventive Care
The old adage “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is absolutely true in veterinary medicine. At Felton Veterinary Hospital, preventive care is tailored to the individual pet, but our preventive care exam will include discussion with you about the following:
- Comprehensive, nose-to-tail physical exam
- Monthly flea, tick, and heartworm prevention
- Early detection diagnostic tests as warranted by your pet’s age and condition
- Dental health grading, oral health and regular teeth brushing
- Body condition scoring and nutrition
Make sure to schedule your pet’s annual or biannual preventive care exam. And, January is a great time to also schedule your pet’s monthly preventives in your iCal, or whatever calendar system you use. It’s so easy to set reminders nowadays, that keeping track of your pet’s monthly dose of flea, tick, and heartworm preventive is literally push button. It might feel like an investment, but keeping up to date on preventive care can save you money in the long run.
Update their tags
Unfortunately pets do get lost. If you have moved or changed phone numbers, take the time to update your pet’s tags with your current contact information. Make sure your pet’s microchip is registered with the correct information as well. A microchip is the single best way to ensure a reunion with you if your pet is ever lost, but only if the registration information is accurate!
Carve Out Time to Play
Play is so important for all of us! Kittens and puppies as well as adult dogs and cats thrive on daily play, and there are so many ways to do that in our area. Why not teach your dog a new trick, or combine your workout routine? Cats can also learn new tricks and thrive on new and fun toys and games. Get creative, and see how good it makes you feel to play, too!
So, there you have them – our top ideas for New Year’s resolutions for pet owners. And these goals aren’t just good for your pets – strengthening the bond between you is good for you, too. If you have any questions or want more ideas, give us a call. We’re always ready to help you keep your pet healthy and happy!
Happy New Year, and cheers!
The holiday season is upon us, and many of us want to include our furry family members in the celebrations. As you prepare for the holidays, remember that it is important to try and keep your pet’s exercise and feeding routine as normal as possible. To help you along in this magical time of year, the team at Felton Veterinary Hospital has compiled some tips for celebrating the holidays safely with your pet.
The Tree — Perhaps the quintessential holiday icon, the Christmas tree can pose some health hazards for dogs and cats. You may want to secure the tree to the wall, so that it can’t tip over. Watch carefully that pets don’t drink the Christmas tree water, which could cause stomach upset or diarrhea.
Poisonous Plants — Holly, mistletoe, and poinsettias all pose serious risks to pets if ingested. Substitute silk flowers and place them high up where they cannot be ingested.
Tinsel and Lights — Kitties especially love tinsel and twinkling lights, and often can’t resist bringing them down for some chewing. However the nibble can result in a swallow, which can lead to digestive tract issues, possibly requiring surgery. Hang them high, or decorate your tree with something else.
Ornaments — Glass and delicate ornaments can break, possibly cutting a paw or mouth. Keep ornaments to soft felt or wood, and again you may want to hang them high to avoid curious paws from reaching them.
Holiday Foods for Pets to Avoid
Common holiday foods that we all love to share can pose some serious health risks for our pets. If you want to share with your pets, keep it simple – a small piece of well cooked, lean turkey meat, unseasoned carrots or green beans, or a dollop of pumpkin puree can all be lovely treats for your furry friends this season. To avoid a trip to the emergency veterinary service this holiday season, here are the top holiday foods for pets to avoid.
- Macadamia Nuts
- Fatty Table Scraps
- Grapes and Raisins
- Onions, Garlic, and Chives
- Yeast dough
Pets are creatures of routine and habit, and holiday visitors and loud gatherings may be stressful for them. To keep them calm and happy, here are some tips
A Quiet Place — Make sure your pet has a comfortable quiet place inside to retreat to if they wish. A crate or a room away from the action can let your pet calm down and give them a welcome break from the action.
Prep Ahead — let your guests know that you have pets, in case of allergies.
Exotic Pets — Exotic pets may be especially stressed by gatherings. Keep them safely away from the hubbub of the holidays.
Watch the Door — make sure your pet cannot slip out during comings and goings and get lost.
Microchip and Tags — Speaking of lost, make sure pets have a well-fitting collar and tags to make sure they can be identified if lost. Better yet, a microchip with up-to-date registration information can be your pet’s best chance of a reunion with you, should they slip out and get lost.
Clear the Food — Make sure food is cleared away before your pet can counter or table surf. Many a case of pancreatitis has been started by pets that get to a carcass or trash can during the holiday feast.
Wrapping Paper and Ribbon — Trash should be cleared away immediately, before curious pets can be tempted.
If you have other questions or concerns about how to keep your pets safe during the holidays, don’t hesitate to contact us. With a little planning and preparation, you can include your pets safely in your holiday celebrations!
As we all think about getting into our swim suits this summer, perhaps the question on our minds is- oops- how can I lose a little weight? In addition to saying no to that next ice cream cone, swimming is often the answer for many people when they think about how to lose a few extra pounds. Guess what? For dogs, it is often the same (minus the ice cream!)
When Dianne brought her chocolate Labrador Retriever, Molly, in to see Dr Atton, she was 114 lbs and overweight. Dr Atton told Dianne that Molly needed to lose weight, and he meant it! It was hard work and took a lot of perseverance, canned pumpkin, and string beans, but after a year Molly reached her goal weight. Her favorite exercise is power walking!
Weekly weigh- ins are an important part of any weight loss program, and Molly was no exception! During one of the many trips Dianne made with Molly to weigh in, she saw a beautiful yellow lab named Jake in the lobby with his owner. Dianne commented on how handsome he was, and after he and his owner left, she learned that he was looking for a new home. After many days of discussion, Dianne and her husband decided to adopt Jake.
Like Molly, Jake was overweight, but now Dianne was an expert in doggy weight loss! Jake was put on a diet, and it was discovered that his favorite exercise is swimming!
Why is swimming a good option for weight loss in dogs?
Swimming is a great form of aerobic exercise and is good for dogs both young and old. “Swimming is potentially a year round opportunity for exercise for dogs with joint or back problems”, says Dr. Atton of Felton Veterinary Hospital, “and, just like with humans, many muscle groups are utilized so it’s truly a whole body exercise and many dogs absolutely love it!”
How can you tell if your dog needs to lose weight?
There are standards in veterinary care for how to tell if your pet is too thin, an ideal weight, or overweight. Your veterinarian can help you to determine your pet’s body condition and will likely use a chart similar to the one shown below.
It is important to have your veterinarian guide you in a weight loss plan that is tailored to your pet’s nutritional needs, along with a monitoring/ follow up program to monitor and maintain progress in a healthy way.
Where can I swim my dog in the Santa Cruz area?
There are a few areas that are well known, and some not so well known, where dogs are allowed to swim in Santa Cruz County. For fitness, a swimming pool is often preferred. For fun, here are some ideas!
Mitchell’s Cove State Beach – is the only beach in Santa Cruz where dogs are allowed off leash, and only before 10:00 am and after 4:00 pm.
It’s State Beach – Dogs are allowed on leash only and this commonly referred to “Dog” beach.
Hidden Beach- Aptos
Beer Can Beach- Aptos
Antonelli Pond – Delaware
Want more ideas for where to take your dog in Santa Cruz County? Check out this great blog with lots of good info on on-leash and off-leash fun with your dog.
Does your dog hike or run with you in grassy open areas? Or do they love to go sniffing in overgrown areas in your yard or neighborhood? Uh oh, foxtail season is HERE. Here’s how to recognize, and more importantly, prevent these nasty weeds from hurting your dog.
What is a foxtail?
A foxtail is a grass-like weed that blooms every spring and releases barbed seed heads. These barbs can work their way into any part of your dog’s body- including eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and even directly into the skin. Because of their barbed nature they tend to be very difficult to remove, and even worse, they can travel beyond sight very quickly.
Where does foxtail grass grow?
If you’re out and about with your dog you’ve probably seen this weed growing everywhere. It can be found in grassy areas, in yards, and even in the sidewalk cracks! Because of heavy rains this winter, foxtails are on the rise this season due to the heavy rains this past winter.
Why are they dangerous?
The danger of foxtails goes beyond simple irritation. The seed heads don’t break down in the body, so an embedded foxtail can lead to a serious infection for your dog. Like an arrow, they only travel one way – deeper into your pet’s body – and don’t come out on their own. If caught early they are relatively easy for your vet to remove. But if left untreated they can cause infection, and in serious cases, can travel through the body to your pet’s internal organs and even cause death.
How do I tell if my pet has a foxtail?
Foxtails are most commonly found in the nose, ears, eye, or between the toes, but can enter the body anywhere. Here are the most common symptoms to look for.
Nose: Nasal discharge and/or sudden onset of violent sneezing can indicate a foxtail in the nose.
Ear: If your pet is shaking his head, tilting it to the side, or scratching at the ear incessantly this could be an indication of a foxtail in the ear canal. They are usually so deep that you can’t see them and your veterinarian needs to take a look with a special scope.
Eyes: Discharge, redness, squinting, and swelling all could indicate a foxtail in the eye.
Feet: Foxtails love your pet’s feet and can get lodged in between toes in particular. If you notice limping, swelling, discharge or tenderness of the feet, a foxtail could be the problem.
Outfox the foxtails- tips for prevention
What can you do during foxtail season to make sure these nasty weeds don’t prevent your outdoor fun? Examine your pet’s coat after outdoor time, especially if you have gone walking in open fields. Check your pet’s face and ears carefully, as well as their mouth, paws, and in between toes. Brush your pet as necessary, paying special attention to feathery, thick, or curly fur. Use tweezers to remove any foxtails you can easily get to, but remember that foxtails won’t come out on their own, so if you see any deeply embedded or if the area is red or swollen, call your veterinarian right away.
If you have what we lovingly refer to as a “foxtail magnet,” consider trimming your pet’s fur during foxtail season, and keep your dog out of overgrown, grassy areas.
Our own adorable foxtail magnet is Bugsy!
Bugsy is a lovable 2 yr old Staffordshire Terrier mix who came in to see us not once, but TWICE within 2 weeks for the removal of foxtails from his tonsils. Ouch! His owners Chelsea and David brought him in the first time after a night of intermittent gagging.
In order to see what was going on and provide Bugsy with a calm, non-threatening experience, Dr Keil sedated him with a safe anesthetic. She then used a special scope to get a good look at what was going on. She found green foxtails embedded in his tonsils, along with tons of redness, swelling, and bleeding. Poor guy! Dr Keil removed the foxtails, Bugsy recovered well from the sedative, and he was then sent home feeling much better. Needless to say, after this event, Chelsea & David removed all foxtails from their yard!
But our little Bugsy was not to be deterred! Two weeks later, he escaped from his yard. He was found in a neighbor’s yard eating foxtails! This time Chelsea and David did not wait for symptoms and brought him right in for sedation and scoping. Once again, fearless Dr Keil sedated and scoped to get a look. Again we found foxtails in addition to spiny oak leaves . Double ouch! Once again the plants were removed and Bugsy recovered well.
No more escaping for Bugsy, and hopefully, no more foxtails in the throat.