Source: CBC (Extract)
Posted: July 18, 2022

David Hopkinson was distressed when his dog Pika started coughing and gagging earlier this week.

“It was almost constant, like every second,” said Hopkinson. “Although we weren’t 100 per cent sure what had happened, we knew we had to get her in to the vet.”

On Wednesday, a veterinarian removed foxtail seeds from Pika’s throat.

Foxtail is a dangerous weed for animals. Its barbed seed heads can get lodged in fur, skin and, in Pika’s case, mouths.

“It’s kind of scary that if we hadn’t done anything about it, I know it gets much worse, because they don’t break down,” said Hopkinson. “They just dig deeper and deeper and deeper and cause more and more problems.”

If left untreated, an embedded foxtail seed can lead to serious infection and, in some cases, can be fatal.

Dog owner wants city to do more

Hopkinson lives in Harbour Landing, where he says foxtail is nearly impossible to avoid.

“There are lots around where their front yard is nothing but foxtail, and there’s a few empty lots that have gotten really, really bad,” he said.

In Regina, the Community Standards Bylaw regulates the maintenance of private properties. It dictates that property owners must not allow grass or vegetation to grow taller than 15 centimetres, or six inches.

Residents who are concerned about overgrown grass or vegetation can contact the city to launch a complaint.

Hopkinson knows this process is available, but said he doesn’t think the city is serious enough about foxtail.

“I don’t know if the city entirely understands the gravity of it,” said Hopkinson.

“What I’d like to see is the city put together some kind of a campaign to discuss the issue and and put together a plan of action to start really going through the city and doing their best to eradicate [foxtail] as much as possible.”

City has strategies

Ray Morgan, manager of parks maintenance for the City of Regina, said there are strategies in place to tackle foxtail.

These include increasing mowing practices, use of herbicides and planting competing vegetation to choke out the foxtail.

“It’s slow, it’s a work in progress and it does take time,” said Morgan. “But we do see some positive impacts in some of the park spaces in some other areas.”

Morgan said foxtail is particularly common in newer neighbourhoods where empty lots are waiting for development, such as Harbour Landing. This is because foxtail germinates easily in raw or exposed land.

Because replacing the weed is a long process, Morgan said there are other ways residents can help reduce the impacts of foxtail.

“Hand pulling is probably the most effective because it’s on a smaller scale,” said Morgan. “If there is no existing turf and it’s full of foxtails, you can use a herbicide to control that.”

Morgan also suggests mowing and bagging practices, as well as cultivating and removing it before it goes to seed.

Hopkinson wants dog owners to be vigilant

Hopkinson noted some pet rescue groups have been posting information warning pet owners about the dangers of foxtail.

“People are really working hard to get the message out to the dog owners,” he said. “Like, to be careful and keep them away because not only can they get stuck in dogs’ throats, but they can get stuck in between their their toes and in their pads.”

Along with awareness campaigns on social media and city-run maintenance, Hopkinson wants property owners to take responsibility.

“I think the big takeaway is for non-dog owners just to please manage their yards and really be vigilant about [foxtail] because for pet owners, we’re pretty worried about our pets.”