Q: What are those little weeds outside that get stuck in my dog’s fur? They are so annoying!

A: Those little weeds are called foxtails, and they are a barbed cluster of seeds that originate from multiple types of weeds that grow in Northern Arizona.

The foxtail will fall off the weed onto the ground or get pulled off as an animal or human walks by, and they attach themselves to fur or clothing. The goal of the foxtail is to spread the seeds of the weed to allow for more growth away from the original plant.

Foxtail migrate in one direction and are not able to reverse itself. This means that they are very good at burrowing into your pet’s skin causing some major medical issues. Most commonly, the foxtail will get caught up in a dog’s fur as they walk by and then start their migration up into the skin. We usually will see them in between the toes as they get caught up in the fur of the paws and then migrate.

Once they get into the skin your pet will start to act irritated in that area and there will start to be swelling and a draining tract. When they do get into the skin, they need to be surgically removed as the pet is usually very sensitive and painful in that area. Foxtails can be found in the eyes, feet, mouth, throat, and anywhere there is skin.

The only way to get rid of foxtails in your yard is to pull them up from the root; mowing or burning them does not get rid of them for the long-term. During foxtail season, it is important to closely check the feet and coat of your animals after walks or after they’ve been out of doors to make sure you remove any foxtails that might have attached themselves to the fur. Taking this action immediately will help prevent the foxtails from migrating and causing medical issues.

If you see any strange lumps or draining tracts on your pet, check with your veterinarian as soon as possible because if it is a foxtail, they must be removed for the area to heal appropriately.

Q: We have been hiking a ton this summer and my older dog has been getting a little sore. Can I give him an aspirin rather than pay for special pain medications for dogs?

A: Hiking in Northern Arizona in the summer is a fantastic way to spend your day and it is even better when you can bring your furry friend along.

If you are going to bring your dog, make sure you are not going during the hottest parts of the day as dogs can overheat very quickly which can turn into a life-threatening situation very quickly.

Also, make sure you have plenty of water for your dogs and stay away from surfaces that might be hot and burn their paws. Be aware of other hikers, joggers, horse back riders, etc. and make sure you always have control of your dog.

Just like people, dogs can absolutely get sore after long hikes but, unfortunately, they are not like people when it comes to medications. Dogs metabolize medications differently than humans and need dog specific medications because some human medications can cause serious medical issues.

Aspirin is one of those medications that a dog can tolerate being given one or two times in a pinch if it is buffered; however, for the long-term it can cause some serious stomach and intestinal issues including ulcers.

If your pet needs to be on more consistent pain medications it is recommended to have a pain consultation with your veterinarian to discuss other options that will not hurt your pet and will allow for a long pain-free life.

Dr. Julianne Miller is a Flagstaff veterinarian. She can be reached at drmiller@canyonpet.com

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