What’s a foxtail?

Before I moved to the San Francisco Bay area, I had never heard of a foxtail!  In the bay area though, if you are a dog sky_IMG_20150628_071040574owner, especially when there is no rain …. well you’d better know what a foxtail is and be on the lookout for them every time you take your dog outside.

Foxtails are most dangerous when they are dry.  This is when they fall off are become easily dislodged from the grass they grow on.  They are barb shaped and when a dog is a around them they seem easy magnets for capturing a foxtail in their coat and then this barb shaped little spikelet starts working it’s way into the dog’s fur and frequently into the skin.  They travel one way!  Deeper into the skin.

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So why would I mention the insidious  foxtail in my blog?  Well -you guessed it if you’ve been reading my blog at all.  One of my dogs, my Australian Shepherd, Sky started showing the symptoms of a foxtail in her ear.  She had been scratching her ear for a few days and I would look at it and see nothing and she wasn’t scratching all the time – just randomly.  Two days ago whilst I was visiting a friends place she started scratching and then cried out in agony.  The three of us got her to calm down and put the other dogs out as we worked to try and find the source of her discomfort.  Nothing seemed out of the ordinary really though we saw a small scratch in her ear.  We looked for a foxtail but saw nothing and I thought well maybe in the course of her scratching herself she hurt herself and so was crying for that reason.

I kept an eye on her for the rest of the day.  She seemed ok -but not her normal chipper self.  I noticed she was tilting her head a bit to the left and occasionally shaking her head or scratching her ear.  By the evening, though still no visible evidence of a foxtail, I was getting more concerned that perhaps this was the situation.  Sky was not acting in pain or scratching at it very often -but she was at times and I figured I had best get her to the vet by the next day.

Yesterday, Wednesday was that day.  I called my vet, Steve and he said he wouldn’t be able to see her till late afternoon.  At about 4pm we got to his office and I explained the symptoms to him.  He had me hold her head as he used a scope to look in her ear.  We wound up doing this twice though he was quite sure he saw something the first time.  He made one attempt to pull the foxtail out while I was holding her head but that was just too impossible so keep her still so no other choice than to give here a sedative.  Within about 10 minutes of the sedative she was knocked out well enough to begin the extraction.   Steve Egri DVM is the master of foxtail removal!  He had that foxtail out within about 15 seconds.  His scope inserted deeply into her ear and then he has tweezers that fit through the centre of the scope and he goes right to it and next thing you know there is a foxtail removed from the ear!!


This was the culprit in Sky’s ear!  Not that big but certainly a source of discomfort for her.  I have been using Steve as the dog’s vet for at least 5 years now and I have to say he is the most honest and straightforward vet around.  He is much more affordable than other vets.  That doesn’t mean I consider his prices to be cheap but they are in comparison to others.  the main thing I love about going to Steve is his approach is to listen to you and then use common sense to make the diagnosis.  While I was in his office for Sky’s foxtail, before he had given her the shot to subdue her another patient came in with a cattle dog and complaining about the itching her dog was dealing with.  He listened and asked questions and then sent her to buy a flea collar.  He didn’t charge her for this visit and didn’t sell her the collar but sent her somewhere to get it.  Steve’s prices have gone up since I first started going to him -but honesty and not trying to inflate the bill with loads of meds etc means more to me than feeling like you are a sucker walking in the door as seems to be the case with so many Vets!

The foxtail removal in this case – was $100.  I received a little discount since I did fix his phone and internet while I was there but I would still go to him at twice the cost because I know he’s honest and practical knowledge goes a long way.

If you’re looking for a good honest vet who lives in the bay area and is open 7 days a week just by calling or texting -then definitely call Steve at Harbor Veterinary Services in Sausalito.


By the way the flea collar he recommended, for the dog with the itching problem, is one I’ve never heard of but sure looks more appealing than the frontline or advantix.    It’s the ‘Bayer Seresto Flea & Tick collar’.


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