Pets that tend to attract foxtails should have their feet and coat trimmed very short

Foxtails can get into pets’ ears and are painful for the animal.


Dr. Jeanne Haggerty-Arcay

The past few months have brought unprecedented times. With everyone staying at home, social distancing and trying to stay safe, our everyday lives have changed. Many are working from home, kids have been attending web-based classrooms from home and everyone is spending much more time outside. Life for our dogs has changed dramatically as well and as pet owners we have to keep them in mind with our changing lifestyle.

Hiking has become a trend. People are out more than ever walking their dogs. For the most part, it is fantastic for everyone, but those not used to this lifestyle can run into trouble.

Foxtails: They are small, barbed weeds that wreak havoc on our pets. They readily burrow into feet, ears, eyes, noses, etc. They are prevalent on all the bay area trails. Help protect your pet by keeping them on leash, tracking down the middle of the trail rather than along the edges where they will encounter brush. Check for foxtails after each outing. Dogs with long, sticky coats should not be out on the trail as these types of coats tend to attract foxtails more readily. Pets that tend to attract foxtails should have their feet and coat trimmed very short so you can more easily perform proper checks.

Masks: Although they are nothing more than an annoyance for most people, for some dogs they can be terrifying. Imagine if all of a sudden the way people outside looked different and scary? Many dogs do not understand and those already easily spooked can become very scared or even aggressive. Remember to reassure them and use positive reinforcement if they are showing skepticism.

Flexi Leashes: Stick to a standard six-foot leash. It provides much better control. Your dog may be used to being walked, but the aggressive 100 pound dog passing you may only be out walking because their owner is working from home.

Heat: During these months, the heat can be problematic. A warm, but doable 80 degree run for a human is too warm for a dog, especially if they have not been groomed and are sporting a long coat. Keep in mind concrete gets very warm. Skin destruction can begin at 125 degrees, which correlates to air temperatures of 77. If you cannot comfortably press your hand against the asphalt for 7-10 seconds, then it is too warm.

Weekend Warrior Syndrome: You may have been used to going to CrossFit every morning prior to the pandemic and have now replaced it with running with your dog, but did your dog go to CrossFit? We all enjoy the company of our dog when running but keep in mind their level of fitness may not be the same as yours.

Traveling Around Town: Although many dogs like join you in the car, consider your dog may be happier staying at home in the air conditioning. At temperatures of 85 degrees, it only takes 10 minutes for the inside of your car to reach 102 degrees. Remember that older, overweight, short-nosed, thick/long-coated and unhealthy dogs will be even more susceptible to heat stroke.

Separation Anxiety: Everyone has been spending more time with their pet during the pandemic. But can too much time be bad? Some dogs, especially those who are very clingy or already predisposed will develop separation anxiety. This is a very common disorder where a pet becomes codependent on their owner and is no longer able to stay alone without self-destructive behavior or excessive anxiety. This is often seen after people who are normally working are all of a sudden home for extended periods. Then when the schedule returns to normal, the pet has lost the confidence and ability to be alone. Prevent this by ensuring your pet spends time alone. Do not take your pet on every errand or let them sit on your lap all day long. Returning to life as it was will be hard for some dogs so make sure you force them to spend time alone so they do not lose that ability.

Enjoy this time with your pet. But stay safe, cool and keep your distance.

Jeanne Haggerty-Arcay