“Fox-tail” weed awns

Wild_oats_2 I put this under ear problems because today these nasty little seeds were an ear problem.  Some people call them "wild oats" (not the kind you wish you had sown, either).  They are the little grass seeds from grasses that look sort of like stalks of wheat.  In our part of the country, these are all over the place during the last couple of weeks in May and the first two weeks in June.

Jake_the_ear__2_ It’s actually not that common to find them inside a pet’s ears, that is, unless the pet is Jake, here.  Last year about this time, he came to us after being treated with numerous ear drops and just not getting any better.  A thorough ear-scoping revealed what looked a bit like a spider on his ear-drum. It was the little "fox-tail" spread out and poked in.  If we had not had the good instrumentation with our MedRx video ear scope, I don’t know how we would have ever removed the foreign object from his ear-drum.  It still wasn’t easy, even under anesthesia. 

Today, he’s back, one year later with a fox-tail on BOTH eardrums.  Is he a lucky guy or what?  The somewhat dazed expression he’s sporting is because the picture was taken about the time he woke up again.

More commonly, we see these things under the eyelids, in the back of the mouth, and especially between the toes.  The darn things have a point on one end, and they poke in between the toes.  The dog comes in with a painful purple bulge between his toes.

Foxtailmicrotip_2 The pointy end has spines that flare out behind, and there are barbs on the little spines. 

Foxtailmicrobarb_2 In fact, there are barbs on the barbs.  Once these things get started in, they embed pretty firmly and don’t come out very easily.  They can be pretty hard to find, even when you numb up the toes and cut into the mess to probe it.  The body tries to wall them off, and there is a lot of what our old family doctor used to refer to as "festering".  Can you imagine having this under your eyelid, rubbing your eye?

We’ll be seeing a lot of these over the next couple of weeks.  There probably won’t be many more down in the ears, though.

3 thoughts on ““Fox-tail” weed awns

  1. ray says:

    i own a english springer spaniel that had respitory problems. to make a long story short. after 1500.00 at the emergency vet i had to take her to purdue vet care where she underwent emergency surgery. they had to cut out the paricardium, several lobes of the lungs, cut open the lungs and scrape out the infection. 4 days later and 8000.00 she is on the road to recovery and will becoming home in 6 days. until this happened i never heard of this problem. i will defiently pay more attention to the area where she hunts.

  2. sarah terry says:

    I own. 5 year old shihtzu and he got a foxtail right in the corner of his eye it has been a couple days and his eye is goopy and obviously irritated but we don’t know how to get it out because there is hair tangled on it!!! What should i do???

  3. Doc says:

    Hello, Sarah,

    Manipulating the foxtail could damage the eye if the dog is not really still. This will probably require sedation.

    Even if you are successful in removing the foxtail, it is very likely that the cornea is already damaged and needs medical attention.

    “bug-eyed” dogs have a lot of trouble with the healing of corneal ulcers.

    You really need to see your veterinarian.

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