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Summer Dangers - Foxtails, Giant Toads & Mushrooms

Guest Author - Sandy Moyer

Danger - Foxtails

Most people living in the Eastern U.S. haven't heard of foxtails and how dangerous they can be to dogs. Foxtails are grass-like weeds which resemble the tails of foxes and are usually found only in states west of the Mississippi. Southern California has a variety of wild grasses with similar characteristics. These annual grasses are often found in weedy areas along paths and roads. From January until about March or early April, they are soft and green. In late spring, however, the seed heads begin to dry and the the danger begins, lasting throughout the summer until fall rains.

The seeds of the drying or dried grasses detach from the plant and stick to a person's clothes or an animal's hair. They can easily become lodged between a dogs toes, in its ears, and in its eyes. Since the seeds are barbed like a fish hook, they can be very difficult to remove. Once embedded, foxtail seeds cause severe infections and abcesses.

The telltale symptoms....
A foxtail seed can cause an inflamed, painful, infected lump anywhere on an animal's body. A dog with a foxtail seed in its ear might rub its head on the ground or shake its head violently from side to side. If a dog gets a foxtail seed in its eye, it might squint. The eye will water and the dog will paw at it. Even if you can clearly see the seed beneath the eyelid, do not attempt to remove it. Get the dog to a veterinarian immediately.

Depending on the location of the seed or seeds, other symptoms are compulsive licking and biting at a paw or around the groin or rectal area or whining and crying with no obvious or acute injury.

In addition to causing pain and localized infections, foxtail seeds can migrate and lodge in the spine, in the lungs and in other internal organs. They enter through the nose, ears, paws, eyes, urethra or just through the skin and travel through the body The seeds are very small, making locating them a painful, difficult and expensive procedure. Depending on where a foxtail seed has traveled to inside a dog, it can even be life threatening and will require prompt surgical removal.

An inhaled foxtail seed which has lodged in the nasal cavity may cause violent sneezing, sometimes with a bloody discharge from the nostrils. To remove it, a veterinarian may need to sedate the animal, locate the seed with a scope, and remove it with a forceps.

Swallowed foxtail seeds lodged in the throat will cause symptoms of an inflamed sore throat. A dog will swallow repeatedly, gulp, cough and gag. Even if the barbed seeds can be detected on examination, the dog will need to be sedated to relax the throat muscles so a veterinarian can grasp the seeds and remove them.

Prevent foxtail tragedies....

  • If you live in an area where foxtails grow, remove weeds from your yard.
  • Keep your dog away from grassy weeds when walking, hiking or hunting.
  • Discourage your dogs from chewing on grasses.

    If your dog has been outdoors in an area possibly infested with foxtails......

  • Examine your pet daily. Carefully brush its hair, while feeling for any raised areas on its skin. Check inside and under its ears; check between the toes, under the armpits and in the groin area. Keep long haired and thick coated breeds especially well-groomed.
  • If you see a foxtail seed sticking in the dog's skin, carefully pull it straight out, making sure not to break it off in the process.
  • If you think a seed might already embedded in the skin, in a paw, in an eye or an ear, or if a dog who has been eating grass seems to have a throat problem, get the dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible! Waiting can only make it harder to find, allow it to migrate and become more dangerous, and make treatment more difficult.

    If you live in an area where foxtails grow, or if you're planning to travel west with your dog this summer, especially to California or other Southwestern states, learn how to identify these deadly wild grasses so you can avoid them.

    For pictures and more information, see ----
    A Dog Owners' Guide to California Foxtails
    Foxtails Can Be Hazardous to Your Pet's Health


    Danger - Giant Toads

    Toads secrete a substance that can irritate a dog's eyes or tongue. Catching and chewing a toad can cause excessive salivation and sometimes disorientation, but usually nothing very serious. If your dog has caught a toad, flushing his mouth with water to relieve the unpleasant symptoms is usually all that's needed. But...... there are some Deadly exceptions!

    Several species of giant toads are a serious threat to pets. The Colorado River Toad, found in Southwestern states from Arizona to Southern California, and the Giant Brown Toad (also known as Marine Toads, Cane Toads or Bufo Toads) found in South Texas and Florida, are the two most common poisonous toads in the U.S. There are also a large number of Bufo Toads in Hawaii. These giant toads can grow to be 4" to about 9" long and to weigh more than 2 pounds.

    Unlike other toads who only eat live, moving insects, giant toads will climb into outdoor food bowls and eat dog food. This leads to toad catching and canine poisoning. There have even been rare cases where giant toads have just sat on the rim of a dog’s water dish and left enough toxin to make the dog sick.

    Drooling, head shaking, pawing at the mouth, crying, and attempting to vomit are some symptoms that a pet has had contact with these toads. Symptoms of toad poisoning in dogs can include heavy drooling, head-shaking, vomiting, diarrhea, bright red gums, weakness, loss of coordination, fever, irregular heartbeat, difficult breathing, tightly clamped jaws, convulsions, and even death.

    Veterinary treatment, among other measures, might include an EKG to detect an abnormal heart rhythm and, if present, cardiac medication to combat it.; medication to reduce fever, medication to control seizures and IV fluids.

    If you live in an area where giant toads can be found, there are some things you can do to protect your dog from a tragic encounter with them.

  • Toads are nocturnal animals. Turn on outdoor lights and don't allow your dog outside alone after dark.
  • Toads are also seen more often in wet weather. When it is raining, any time of day, always accompany your dog outside, and be extra watchful.
  • Inspect areas around plants and shrubs and carefully check your yard for toads before taking your dog outside during early morning hours.
  • If your dog has had contact with a giant toad, place a hose along the inside of the dog's mouth, point the dog's head downward so the water won't be swallowed and flush its mouth with water to remove all trace of the poison. While flushing, rub the gums and rub the inside of its mouth. Continue until the gums and the inside of the mouth no longer feel slimy, then call your Vet.
  • If you suspect toad poisoning in your dog, get prompt veterinary treatment.

    To read more about these poisonous amphibians, see...
    Encounter With Giant Toad Costs Family Dog Its Life
    Poisonous Toads and Your Pet
    Cane Toads, Giant Toads or Marine Toads
    Protect your dog from poisonous cane toads
    The Danger of Red Back Spiders and Toads


    Danger - Poisonous Mushrooms

    Many pet owners don't realize that some of the mushrooms that grow in their yard are toxic to dogs and can even be fatal. Dogs who like to "graze" will sometimes eat wild mushrooms along with lawn grasses, leading to mushroom poisoning. Dogs can sometimes become ill by just licking a poisonous mushroom. Some dogs, like some people, are allergic to even edible, normally safe mushrooms. Symptoms of mushroom poisoning can range from mild vomiting and diarrhea to severe digestive problems to complete liver failure.

    If your dog has eaten poisonous mushrooms...

    If you catch him in the act - you actually see the dog starting to eat them....

  • Remove any pieces from the dog's mouth,  and....
  • Induce vomiting with either -
          Syrup of ipecac (1 teaspoonful per 10 pounds of body weight), or
          Hydrogen Peroxide 3% - 1 tablespoon every 10 minutes, repeat 3 times.   
  • Call your veterinarian.


    If your dog has eaten poisonous mushrooms, but there is short delay in realizing what has happened...   

  • Save the specimens for identification.    
  • Call your veterinarian or take your dog to a nearby emergency veterinary hospital immediately.


    If your dog has eaten poisonous mushrooms, and symptoms have already begun....   

  • Take your dog to a nearby emergency veterinary hospital immediately.


    Protect Your Pets...
    Always watch for mushrooms in areas where you walk your dogs or where they run and play. Be especially cautious of parasol-shaped mushrooms and all small brown mushrooms. Check your yard each morning, especially in damp weather, for new growth before letting your dog outside. Remember that new mushrooms can appear overnight. Whenever you find mushrooms in your yard, dig them up. Smashing or kicking them spreads the spores and even more will grow.

    It can be very difficult to tell the difference between poisonous and edible mushrooms, and even harder to describe them over the telephone.

    See the following sources for more information about poisonous mushrooms, including pictures to help identify them.

    Losing Destinee -A Mushroom Horror Story
    Facts and Fiction About Mushroom Identification?
    Edible & Poisonous Mushrooms
    Wild Mushrooms and Poisoning
    Magic Mushrooms Net Identification Guide


    If you stop using flea and tick prevention over the winter months, don't forget to begin using it again in early spring.



    Spring Wellness Kit For Dogs
    Help your dog enjoy life, maintain optimum health, and get your dog ready for Spring with five items for healthy head-to-paw care at an incredible savings! For a brilliantly clean coat, gently shampoo your dog with 1-800-PetMeds Shampoo. This oatmeal and aloe vera shampoo will not remove topical flea and tick medications, but it will clean away debris while it soothes the skin. Breath Refresher with parsley, papain and chlorophyll and Greenies, a chewable treat will tackle tartar and bad breath. 1-800-PetMeds Ear Cleanser, cleans, acidifies and deodorizes. 1-800-PetMeds VitaChews is a liver-flavored vitamin and mineral supplement.


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    Content copyright © 2014 by Sandy Moyer. All rights reserved.
    This content was written by Sandy Moyer. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Bettina Thomas-Smith for details.

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