Ed Note: Cal Cadmus DVM has been involved in
Field Trials for more than 20 years and won the '86 National Amateur
Championship with NAFC-FC Winsom Cargo. His office is located in Oakdale,
California where he specializes in TPLO repair (cruciate injury).
We are planning a trip out West for some training and field trials this summers
We have been warned about something called foxtails. Can you tell us what this
plant does to the dog, what signs and symptoms it produces and what to do if
we suspect he has inhaled a foxtail?
This is a great question! Each summer we see dogs that have accidentally inhaled
a foxtail and have developed serious and sometimes irreversible pneumonias The
old adage about prevention being more important than treatment certainly holds
with foxtail disease. Therefore, first, let us make some suggestions on prevention:
to recognize which plants are hazardous. Know that
the dry yellowish plants are more threatening than
the green ones.
• Never exercise or train if any suspect plants are in the field.
• If unsure about a exercise area, especially at night, exercise with a
bumper in the mouth, the dog is less likely to put nose down and sniff.
• Foxtails will get between the toes so check often and check inside the
crate as well. You can throw a bumper in the water to flush them off the skin
• If your dog gets a sudden sneezing attack, flush both nostrils with saline
(contact lens wetting solution) and observe to see if he sneezes it out.
• Don't assume that because he has stopped sneezing he has sneezed it out.
Get him checked by a veterinarian with a scope.
The foxtail can be sneezed out, removed by a veterinarian, or travel back.
If that happens, the foxtail can go into the esophagus with no
further consequences. Should the foxtail migrate into the trachea,
severe pneumonia can result as well
as other life threatening respiratory complications.
Plant awns carry bacteria called nocardia and actinomyces.
The first signs of foxtail induced pneumonia can be quite subtle.
His or her appetite may be slightly decreased. There may also be
a slight cough and fever or, he or she may not be feeling normal.
As the disease progresses the body temperature increases and they
become quite sick. Blood counts show increase in blood white cells
and chestx-ray reveal the pneumonia process.
The treatment at this stage is hospitalization and aggressive intravenous and
oral antibiotic therapy. Because of the fulminating pneumonia, the patients are
usually not good surgical candidates. The foxtail will migrate out
of the lung tissue and lodge itself in the chest wall or under the second or
third lumbar vertebrae. This is when exploratory surgery is indicated.
Have a safe trip this summer and remember that foxtail and other dangerous plant
awns are common to all the western states.