Before I came to California, I had no idea what a foxtail even was. But soon after arriving at vet school, I learned that foxtails make their way onto nearly every differential list. They are a seemingly innocuous grass that has a barbed head that can be incredibly damaging to animals’ eyes, feet, skin…and every other body part.
For the past three weeks at my externship, I have seen an animal present for some sort of trauma or discomfort that could be attributed to a foxtail embedding itself in the ear, eye, rectum, vagina, or skin. No species is immune. Any animal with access to the outside is susceptible to foxtail trauma.
We were called out to a cattle ranch on a Saturday to investigate a potential pink eye epidemic in the calf herd. However, shortly after investigating the calves’ eyes, it became clear that they were in fact affected by foxtails. Most of the afflictions were scarred over or healing, but some calve still had foxtails present in the eye that needed to be removed. We were able to remove the foxtails and allow the eye to begin healing.
Since then, I’ve seen dogs and goats suffering similar foxtail trauma. To avoid serious and urgent surgery to remove foxtails that migrate inside the body through the abdominal wall, up the nose, or into the bladder, it is important to always check all animals for any foxtails on their body or in their hair coat. Preventing foxtail trauma helps to keep time outdoors during the summer season safe and enjoyable for everyone!