Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Foxtail + Dog = Danger!!

Several days earlier, we felt two relatively large lumps on our dog, Sadie. Knowing we would be near San Francisco, we made an appointment at a Banfield Vet Hospital to have her checked out. Needless to say, we were VERY worried. 

In January we had taken Sadie to a Banfield Vet Hospital for her annual physical and immunizations so all of her medical information is available at any location throughout the US. As full-time RVers, this provides some level of continuity of care for her. 

The appointment was at 5 pm and the vet saw her right away. Because Sadie has such a thick coat, the vet was unsure as to what the lumps might be (saying one felt "soft" and the other was "firmer") upon inital evaluation. After shaving around the areas of concern, the vet was able to ascertain that the lumps were actually infected areas caused by embedded foxtail barbs. We promptly agreed to have Sadie sedated to allow the vet to remove the foxtail. Below is a photo of the tiny barbs (taped to gauze pads) they pulled out of her. (Sorry for the glare in the photo...)
Sadie was ready to go home with us a couple hours later (albeit a little sedated) with a 14-day regiment of antibiotics and pain medication for the next 5 days.  

And, not only, were some embedded in her skin but they removed many more from her paws (in between her toes) that had not yet become embedded. 

We were advised to have her shaved the next day by a groomer to enable us to find any other foxtail hiding in her thick coat.

Sadie, like all Australian Shepherds, has a double coat: the outer coat is waterproof; and, the undercoat is denser providing insulation. This made it difficult to even detect the foxtails.

She looks so different shaved ... About a third of her former self! Here's what she looks like now. The bow they put on her was so darn cute!

We did, indeed, find additional foxtail on her skin...mostly on her underside and legs. Once the barbs are embedded in a dog (or cat's) mouth, nose, ears, etc., they do not disintegrate. They will continue to move through to the animals brain, lungs, intestines, and can even cause death. Yikes!! Why did we not know about this danger to our beloved doggy?

Being from the East Coast, neither John nor I had ever heard of the foxtail plant or the danger it presents to dogs (and cats). Now that we are more informed, we understand how very dangerous these weeds can be. What we thought were beautiful, golden meadows, are deadly foxtail fields! We believe she was exposed to this nasty weed about 12 days earlier when we were in Three Rivers, CA, near Sequoia National Park.

We have since learned that foxtail grows abundantly in California but also in other western states. The best way to avoid exposure for your pet is to avoid open fields altogether. After walks through meadows or fields, examine your pet's face, feet, and coat and brush at least weekly. 

For now, we are checking her daily and have spoken with the vet about her progress. After the 14-day antibiotic treatment, we will take her in for a re-check if everything has not cleared up. 

I wrote this post to inform other RVers of this potential pet danger. We knew that Leptospirosis vaccines are recommended in the west (and, of course, we are very familiar with Lyme's Disease that has now spread to most states). Don't be as uninformed as I was about the foxtail plant! Research the dangers of foxtail to your pet and avoid it. 

We're not done dealing with this yet and continue to be very concerned about our furry family member. Follow up will happen in two weeks if everything is not resolved by then. Meanwhile, brushing after a walk is the new norm

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