Walking through my kitchen this morning, a total of three foxtails were found on the floor. Foxtail season is back in Western Colorado, and that can spell trouble for dogs.

Some regions in Colorado enjoyed a wet spring. With the extra water comes extra foxtail grasses. With those come extra foxtails falling to the ground, and potentially finding their way to our four-legged friends.

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2021 Proving to be a Rough Year with Foxtails

I've lived in the same house for 38 years, and in that time, have never had so many foxtails in the house. I give you my honest word I pull weeds from time to time and keep my yard relatively clean. Even with proactive measures, foxtails appear to be ubiquitous in 2021.

What's a Foxtail?

Prepare yourself for some unnecessarily big words. According to the Colorado State University Extension, foxtail barley is:

Hordeum jubatum...a showy short-lived native perennial cool season bunchgrass that belongs to the grass tribe Triticeae. It has a shallow root system and reproduces by seeds and tillering. This plant ranges in height from one to three feet tall at maturity. It is often found in pastures, roadsides, meadows, alkaline/saline areas, moist soils and disturbed areas


What's the Big Deal?

Foxtails present serious problems for dogs. My pets have been through this twice over the years. The very nature of a foxtail is to move in one direction - forward. They love to travel, always progressing relentlessly forward, never backward. As a result, they can work their way into your pet, causing a lengthy list of problems. According to Fetch by WebMD, common problems associated with foxtails include:

  • Foxtails love to get into your dog's feet, getting embedded between toes (I've had pets encounter this problem, and it's miserable for them).
  • They can work their way into ear canals. If you see your dog shaking their head, scratching at their ears, or tilting their head side to side, get in touch with your vet.
  • Foxtails can get in your pet's eyes.
  • If your dog is sneezing frequently, or if you see discharge from their nose, there might be a foxtail lodged in their nasal passage.

What Are We Going to do About It?

The key here is to be proactive. It's pretty obvious what I'm going to be doing this weekend. Here are a few steps, courtesy of Alta Vista Animal Hospital, to help prevent the problem.

  • Eliminate all foxtail grasses in your yard in the spring before they dry. Over-plant these areas with desirable species or use bark mulch to discourage regrowth. I've implemented this technique with some positive results. The foxtails still manage to find a way.
  • When walking your dog, avoid areas where foxtails like to grow, including open spaces and overgrown lawns.
  • Examine your pets for foxtail seeds. Check their fur, between toes (very common in my experience), inside ears, nose, and around their mouth, even in their gums.

My house is located in a "natural terrain" area, and as a result, my yard meets every criteria listed above. I've been searching for what is called a "litter vacuum," essentially a giant outdoor vacuum cleaner. Yes, I'm actually planning on vacuuming my yard. Hey, whatever it takes to keep the pets safe and happy.

Please keep a sharp lookout for foxtails. I've seen what they can do to a dog's paws and skin. Living with a foxtail embedded in your hide is nothing short of miserable. It looks as though 2021 is going to be particularly bad year for pets in Western Colorado, so please be extra-vigilant.

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