Grass Awns and Foxtails - Protect your pets
Be on the lookout for these tiny and troublesome weeds
When the weather warms up and grass turns from green to brown, it's time to be on alert for various "invaders" from the
plant world. As grasses and weeds dry out and seeds begin to scatter,
this can mean trouble for pets (and annoyances for people). Daily checks
and quick removal are the key to preventing serious problems in the
Similar plants, known by many names
Cheatgrass, also known as Cheat grass (two words), June Grass, Downy Brome, grass awn, or by the scientific name, Bromus tectorum L., is a common and invasive type of weed, found in many parts of North America. It is also called foxtail.
Why it is dangerous for pets
The danger for pets lies in the "invasiveness" of the dry seed pods found in late summer and early fall. These pods have one-way microscopic barbs
that allow the seed to work its way into fur, skin, and mucous
membranes, but not work itself back out, much like the one-way movement
of porcupine quills. Foxtail weeds shed very small black seeds which
also work their way into fur, skin, and tissue.
Finding grass awns on pets
These annoying and troublesome weeds have been found in the skin,
between the toes (very common), eyes, ears, mouth, vulva; basically
anywhere on the body. They can even work their way through skin to
interior body cavities such as lungs and abdomen, causing sometimes very
serious infections. It is important not to underestimate the potential
seriousness of this common problem.
Grass awn prevention tips
Daily skin and foot checks plus quick removal will reduce or
eliminate potential serious and expensive problems. Both cats and dogs
are affected, but cats seem to be better at grooming and removing these
weeds. Here are some tips to recognize potential problems and keep
Cheatgrass and Foxtails away from your pets.
- Keep weeds out of your pet's yard and enclosure
- Keep your pet's coat clean and well-groomed. This will help reduce grass seed accumulation and make for easier daily inspections
- Keep pets out of dry grassy fields and roadsides
- Inspect your pet daily for hair mats (where grass awns like to hide) and between toes
- Clipping the hair between paw pads in dogs will reduce potential for picking up grass awns
- Any time your pet is excessively sneezing, drooling, shaking their
head, scratching ears, whining, licking at their paw or other body part
excessively, please have them checked by your veterinarian as soon as
possible to prevent further damage
Grass awn problems in pets
Animals with an infected grass awn penetration will show signs
typical of an infection: lethargy, anorexia, painful, or signs of
drainage. Feet are common problem areas. Look for excessive licking,
redness, drainage, swelling between toes. You may also see a small
"puncture hole" between the toes. Some dogs may limp.
Finding and removing a grass awn before it can embed and infect will
save a lot of trouble. These grass seeds will not simply fall out the
way they came in the vast majority of cases. This problem tends to
continue to worsen over time.
Grass awn problems on your property
For assistance in getting rid of these noxious weeds around your
property, please contact your local extension agent for more information
about local weed control in your area.