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Retriever Field Trial News - June 2004
Foxtails

Cal Cadmus, DVM


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).

QUESTION
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?

ANSWER
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:

• Learn 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 and feet.

• 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.

 

  FOXTAIL PLANTS
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.

All articles are reprinted with permission
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