Foxtails are harmful to pets. (Daniel Zuniga/For The Observer)

Foxtails, a grass-like weed, is known to be very harmful to pets, and recognizing that could save you a trip to the vet.

The dangers of foxtails are complex. Foxtails do not break down inside the body, and can result in serious medical complications. Foxtails can pierce your pet’s skin, but the real issues begin when they get inside your pet’s body.

“They can actually inhale them whether that be through their mouth and into their lungs or through their nose and stuck in their nostrils,” said Veterinarian Dr. Jason Nicholas.

The foxtail plant can work its way into any part of a pet, from the nose in between the toes and inside the ears, eyes or mouth.

“These little pains can wind up in their chest, they can lead to infections, they can lead to very expensive surgeries depending on where they wind up,” Nicholas said. “They can actually even lead to death.”

Fatalities due to foxtails are unlikely, but they do happen.

A study by Kate Hopper, PhD, a professor at UC Davis, concludes that a minority of foxtail cases develop life-threatening disease and may require a multidisciplinary approach of multimodal imaging, endoscopy or surgery.

Even though a minority of cases develop serious implications, that does not mean you want to put your pet at risk.

Tips for preventing foxtail problems include pulling out foxtail plants near your house, avoiding overgrown grassy areas, checking your pet’s fur, paws, ears and keeping your pet’s hair trimmed during the summertime.

“You do want to keep an eye out for these signs, recognize that they can mean any number of things and bring them to your veterinarian promptly for evaluation,” Nicholas said.