Walking on the Wakamow Valley trails and rural hikes are popular activities for people and their pets.  

However, certain types of grass might leave your dog feeling uncomfortable and in some cases can even be dangerous.  

Foxtail grass and spear grasses are native weeds that grow in and around the city.  

“Foxtail is very common in the city and in the countryside... it’s very common in marginal lands, especially in salines and slew bottoms that have dried out. Spear grasses that we have around in our area, we have three (types) that are native and can be found. I have seen them in the city, especially in some school yards but they’re not as common,” says Stephanie Huel with the Moose Jaw River Watershed Stewards.  

She adds that both of the grasses can be found around Wakamow Valley. 

These weeds have barbed seeds which can hook into a dog or cat’s fur, skin, and sometimes can get into the pet's nose, mouth, throat, or lungs.  

“So basically, the plant material (seeds) has a little hook on the end like a porcupine quill and so when it goes into the skin it doesn’t come back out,” says Dr. Lisa Cunningham, Veterinary at the Moose Jaw Animal clinic.  

She says that when these seeds get lodged into an animal’s skin, it creates an irritating infection.  

“On the skin, we see abscesses, little tracks and draining holes of abscess. The feet are the most common places we see them but more concerning is sometimes they inhale them. So, if they’re running through the grass with their mouths open, they’ll get them in the back of their throat and those ones are really tricky to find and can be pretty serious, those can have much more severity,” says Cunningham.  

She adds that the seeds can be difficult to locate on any part of the pet and could take months of examination to find them. Once the seeds are found, they need to be surgically removed. 

The Moose Jaw Animal Clinic sees roughly 10 cases a year of foxtail and spear grass seeds getting stuck on pets’ skin and in their throats.  

Cunningham says pets will show signs if they’ve caught some seeds.  

“Most of the time, if they get them in their feet or in their skin, you’ll see them licking them. So, they seem uncomfortable, they’re limping and they keep licking the spot... For ones in the throat, you’ll see coughing or gagging, a lot of discomfort, and sometimes swelling under the jaw,” she says.  

The best way to help prevent this from happening is to check over your pet immediately after running or walking through tall grass. Soaking your pet’s feet in warm water can also help prevent the seeds from hooking into your pet’s skin.  

However, if the seeds do latch onto your animal it will require veterinary attention.