With warm weather comes dangerous foxtails

There's money to be made in scooping poop

Last weekend, I visited some friends with a litter of English
bulldog puppies. A small group was there and we had a good time
talking all about my favorite breed, remembering Pebbles, my bully
sidekick for so many years.
Last weekend, I visited some friends with a litter of English bulldog puppies. A small group was there and we had a good time talking all about my favorite breed, remembering Pebbles, my bully sidekick for so many years.

During this get-together, one of the other guests asked me what part of veterinary medicine was most financially rewarding. She wanted to know what my “bread and butter” was at the clinic over the years. She thought that it was probably all the English bulldogs I treated. “I’ll bet they helped your profits”, she told me.

But I surprised her with my answer. I reached down in the garden plot next to us, and pulled up a green foxtail. “These”, I showed her. “In the springtime, these were always our bread and butter.”

Foxtails can penetrate the skin and migrate throughout the body, carrying infection everywhere. If one penetrates the skin between the toes, it can travel up the leg all the way into the chest or abdomen. What’s worse, they can be very difficult to find as they make their way through body tissues. Veterinarians remove these barbs from everywhere and anywhere in the body. Foxtails get into eyes, ears and noses. And they do even more. I know a case where a foxtail was removed from between two lumbar vertebrae! This poor dog had symptoms similar to a very painful meningitis. He recovered after surgery, but really suffered throughout his whole ordeal.

Here’s the good news. The danger of foxtails is preventable. And now’s the time to do your prevention. Warm spring weather has energized these weeds and they’re out in full force. Any and all foxtails should be removed from your yard now. Get rid of them when they’re green before they dry out and pierce the skin of your pet.

This weekend, get out the weedwacker or hoe. Do whatever it takes to keep foxtails away from your dog or cat.

Q:

I know that dogs and cats both can get infected with heartworm. But you have never mentioned people. Do people ever catch this disease?

A:

Some parasites are species specific; they usually only infect one group. But there are many parasites that can infect different species. One example is canine heartworm, Dirofilaria Immitis. Heartworm is mainly seen in dogs and, to a lesser extent, in kitty-cats. But there have been approximately 80 cases of heatworm infection in humans, according to the Journal of the Mississippi State Medical Association.

Heartworm is a parasite that thrives in canines, but has adapted itself to certain situations where it can survive in another host. Most human victims have been between the age of 40 and 60 years. No children have reportedly been infected. But diagnosis in humans is not easy. And some specialists are concerned because recently, there has been a jump in the number of reported cases.

Prevention in dogs is easy and relatively inexpensive. I believe that almost all dogs should be on the preventative medication to protect them from this deadly disease.

Q:

Rolf, our German shepherd, loves to chase the ball. His favorite is a red tennis ball, but anything round will do, just as long as we throw it for him. And if we stop playing with him, he will lay down and chew the ball.

The other day, I noticed that his front teeth are worn down. They look almost flattened. Can chewing on a tennis ball and playing catch wear down his teeth?

A:

Not very likely. The tennis ball is too soft. He can chew on it without any worries.

I’ll bet that Rolf is chewing on other things. And if tennis balls are good fun, I’d be willing to wager that he also likes to pick up rocks and pieces of wood. And these certainly could take the edge off his teeth.

He could also be damaging his teeth chewing on the fence around his pen or yard.

Whatever the case, I’d recommend that you find a way to curtail his chewing activity before he loses more of his pearly whites.

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