Keep your dogs away from this weed; it can have deadly consequences

Foxtail can be deadly to pets, so steer clear of the invasive plant

Foxtail is an invasive weed. While largely found on the western side of the U.S., the weed can also be found in Georgia pastures, hayfields and backyards. Pet owners, beware: Foxtail is dangerous for dogs.

In a 2016 report, the University of Georgia’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences discussed the dangers of the weed on both crop yields and livestock.

“Foxtails (Setaria spp.) are invasive weeds in pastures and hayfields,” the report said. “The competitive growth of foxtails with pasture species causes stand thinning and reductions in hay yields. A distinguishing characteristic of these weeds is the cylindrical seedhead that resembles a fox’s tail.”

A danger to dogs

According to the American Kennel Club, foxtail weed is dangerous not only to livestock, but also to dogs, sometimes lethally so. The foxtail barbed “mean seeds” imbed themselves into the animal’s skin, often around the ear, eyes, mouth, nose and between the toes.

When inhaled, the seeds can cause pneumonia in dogs. Other symptoms include swelling between the toes, limping, head shaking, gratuitous scratching, pawing at the eyes, frequent sneezing, nasal discharge, eye discharge and persistent licking of the genitals.

If they make their way inside the dog, the barbs can potentially reach the animal’s brain or lungs, causing potentially deadly infections.

Spreading fast

It’s also a nuisance that spreads quickly.

“Foxtail plants are also prolific seedhead producers that are concerning in polyculture with pasture species,” the report continued. “The foxtail seedheads have sharp awns that can injure livestock. Hayfield growers may also be concerned about the economic impact of foxtails on yield and hay quality. Foxtail populations often outcompete hayfield grasses for light, water, and nutrients required to optimize yields. Foxtail seedheads are also contaminants of hay bales that may contribute to the transport of seed to new areas.”

Annual species found in Georgia include giant foxtails, green foxtails and yellow foxtails. The weeds grow in the summer and complete their lifecycle during fall. UGA’s Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health reported that giant foxtail is native to Asia and was accidentally introduced into the U.S. during the 1920s. It can be found on roadsides, landfills, fence rows and right of ways.

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