Summer pet safety tips: Avoid foxtail and tall grass

It’s high season for foxtail, a grass-like weed that can be dangerous for our four-legged companions, and veterinarians say an embedded seed can even lead to death if it goes untreated.

Dog owners at Alki playground have been noticing the overgrowth that is surrounding the popular park.

"If you have a suggestion on how to get rid of these noxious weeds, we would like them gone," said dog owner Tracy Wellens. "I would prefer not to get near foxtail because I don’t want it to get in her eye."

"I’ve had to pull stuff out of [my dog’s] pads kind of regularly because he has really sensitive paws," said Judith Gille. "They get embedded and then they actually kind of continue going in and get under their skin and that’s a problem."

Foxtail has barbs on it, so the tip has seeds and the seeds have a shaft that is spiky, according to Dr. Lauren Restis of Seattle Humane.

"When pets walk through tall grass and walk through the fields, these barbs will sort of stick onto there fur, or they can sort of get stuck between toes and paw pads," said Dr. Restis, a staff veterinarian. "The way that the barbs are shaped, it’s almost like a fishhook, in that it can kind of move one direction, but not the other. If there’s pressure on the paw or as it sort of sticks closer to the skin, it can migrate under the skin and cause some irritation and issues."

The issues could involve a local infection that needs to be treated with antibiotics, or if the foxtail makes its way into the animals skin and body, sedation or even surgery may be necessary for removal and treatment of the infection.

Restis recommends avoiding areas with foxtail and tall grass.

She’s reminding pet owners to do a thorough check of your animal after being outside. She said to brush them and look in between all of their paw pads and crevices where foxtails could be hiding.

"We just got to be careful because. We don’t want her to be hurt or any other dog suffering, so we just try to keep her on a short leash basically and try to not let her stop and sniff and stuff," said Oscar Oviveo.

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is available 24 hours a day at 888-426-4435.