Foxtail barley is a short perennial grass from 30 to 60 cm tall that grows in dense clumps or tufts. The species has an extensive root system that is fibrous and lacks rhizomes. Rhizomes are horizontal underground stems that store carbohydrates and send up new grass plants or tillers, which are above-ground stems. Each tiller has an inflorescence or flower with many awns or bristles giving the plant its distinctive appearance. The colour of the plant ranges from green with purplish awns when flowering to light brown when seeds have matured later in the summer and autumn.
The awns are capable of invading the body of your dog through the mouth, anus, feet ears, or through any point on the body surface. Once the awns penetrate the skin they move in one direction because of the orientation of minute barbs attached to each larger bristle (e.g., similar to the barbs on the larger quills of a porcupine). Awns can travel throughout the body in the blood. The awns are capable of killing your dog and as some autopsies reveal, the awns may accumulate in the heart. Awns can also penetrate the ears and become embedded in the eardrum. Similarly, awns can enter through the nose and become lodged in the nasal passageway. Awns entering through the mouth can become lodged in the lungs, spinal cord and/or chest cavity. Secondary effects from infections are also a problem. Partially penetrated awns that are visible should be removed immediately, preferably by a trained professional. You should contact your veterinarian for a list of possible symptoms and treatment methods.
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