‘They’re like fish hooks’: dangerous foxtail plant hospitalizing dogs

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WATCH: Foxtails, a grass-like weed, has been injuring dogs across Saskatoon – Aug 14, 2020

Foxtails are a grass-like weed that can burrow into your dog’s body.

“Once they mature and become yellow and get cut, they become deadly,” dog owner Leah Betteridge said in Saskatoon on Friday.

“They’re like fish hooks for dogs.”

Read more: Foxtail frustrating residents in Regina’s Harbour Landing neighbourhood

Betteridge’s great danes, Lucy and Piper, were both hospitalized with foxtails embedded in their throats, lips, tongues and tonsils.

“Her and my other dog, Pipe, were starting to cough a lot. They were panting and licking their lips. They became very lethargic.”

The dogs’ veterinarian, Dr. Vivienne Jones, said foxtails have always been an issue, but this year is the worst she’s ever seen.

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She’s treated 15 dogs in the past 10 days alone at Erindale Animal Hospital.

“It’s an emergency and something that needs to be seen right away,” Jones said.

“They can get inhaled, go up the nose and in some cases have even migrated into the brain.”

Read more: No injuries from vehicle collision with bear in Saskatchewan

Here are symptoms your dog might display, according to Jones:

  • excessive licking;
  • repeated sneezing;
  • shaking their head;
  • gagging;
  • hard swallowing;
  • repeated swallowing;
  • coughing; and
  • trying to eat grass.

Foxtails can be very hard to spot in the dog’s mouth, so if you see any of these symptoms contact your veterinarian.

Preventative measures:

  • brush your dog after a walk;
  • keep them on a leash;
  • check their ears and paws daily; and
  • netted muzzle or a field guard.

The City of Saskatoon is aware of the issue.

Ward 10 Coun. Zach Jeffries, who represents the Aspen Ridge area where Betteridge lives, said it’s been an “unprecedented” year for foxtails.

He’s working with various partner agencies, like the Meewasin Valley Authority, to develop a solution.