Noun:
2. a person or thing that applies or administers punishment or severe criticism.
3. a cause of affliction or calamity
I guess this could be my PSA (Public Service Announcement). This post is about Foxtails, aka grass awns, aka SCOURGE OF THE EARTH! They can kill your dog. No joke.
If you don’t know about foxtails/ grass awns, you’re very lucky. I’d heard about them before, but we didn’t have any in our yard at the old house. I’m not so lucky here at the new house. (Insert expletive.) I spent over 2 hours last night digging them out of my dogs’ hair and their beds. And it’s not like I hadn’t checked them the day before and pulled the sinister little bas***ds out then. (Insert better expletive here.)
I have Miniature Schnauzers… 4 of them. The foxtails just love them. The dogs that I’ve clipped fairly short don’t have quite as much of a problem. But the ones with a little longer hair are a nightmare.
Before I go on, I’ll explain what foxtails are. They are a grass that sheds it’s seeds in the form of basically a barb with a tail. The  big piece on the right is what it looks like as a grass, at least around here. There are several different kinds.
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The piece in the middle, closest to the dime is what falls off of the main plant. You can see that there are many, many pieces still (barely) attached to the main plant.

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Shown with a dime for size comparison.
Ok. So, these little seeds have a needle-like part which is at the bottom of the two little tail strands. It’s very hard, VERY pointy and sharp. It’s easy to stab yourself with one. Here’s the clincher though, the needle part has tiny little barbs on it that point back towards the tail. Therefore, as it was designed to do, once it enters a surface i.e. your dog’s skin, or hair, it doesn’t come out. With each bit of movement, it edges forward, never back. So once it’s gotten into the skin, it slowly pushes it’s way through the dog’s body. It doesn’t degrade, dissolve or go away once it’s in the body either. It can migrate into organs and even the brain and can kill your dog. I’m not joking and I’m not exaggerating.
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Wikipedia has some good microscopic photos of the needle part with the barbs on it as well as more information.
We put one between our fingers and tried to pull it backwards and we could feel the resistance from the barbs. Pushing it forward between the fingers was pretty easy.
Here is another link as to how it affects dogs.
You can pull them out, however they are hard to see, even on a dark colored dog. They are easy to feel because, well, they are basically a needle. So definitely like finding a needle in a haystack of hair. They like areas that are protected but have movement, like in between the toes and in the armpits. But they can and do get anywhere. My smallest dog was acting like she had something in her mouth and sure enough after investigating, there was one in between her gums & lips. It hadn’t gotten a chance to attach itself yet, thankfully.
I found out about them last year. I was dealing with chemo and wasn’t paying enough attention to the pups. I found a number of them already buried in the skin of some of the dogs. Which was terrifying. Everybody got clipped way short, which I hate to do in the winter, but I had no choice. I was terrified that one had gone into a body and was migrating. Luckily there weren’t any. I guess I’d gotten them all out in time.
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You can see how the piece on the left has at least 3 or 4 needles waiting to detach from the stem. 
Why didn’t you get rid of the foxtails you say? We’ve been trying, trust me. It’s a grass, so there is a lot of it. It’s too much to pull up by hand. Hubs has been mowing and vacuuming it up in the grass catcher, which has helped. However (and don’t get me started) he didn’t mow around a couple of implements and the foxtail has flourished there. I’ve read that not even burning will keep it from coming back (see the Wikipedia page). So I’m hoping that removing the seeds will at least slow it down if not get rid of it. I’m hoping it will get rid of it eventually. But then I’m afraid it’s in other areas of land around us. Although, it’s not in the front yard that I can tell. I’m thinking that attaching to something is the only way it can spread itself. Fingers crossed.
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