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East Bay SPCA Home
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Welcome to Shelter Life at the East Bay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

We began as the Oakland SPCA in 1874. Today, the East Bay SPCA includes two animal shelters and three clinics in our community.

This is our day.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

It's Foxtail Season Again

Every summer the California grass dries up and foxtails are born. This is a season where many dog owners find themselves needing to check their dogs - especially long haired ones - between the toes, under the coat, behind the ears searching for small barbs stuck to the skin or fur. If not noticed right away, these small pieces of the larger seed head can get stuck up noses or embedded deep under the skin, needing surgical removal. If you haven't seen what foxtails look like, you can take a look at http://www.csupomona.edu/~jcclark/dogs/foxtails.html .

Yesterday, when J and I took a trip to one of the shelters we work with, we tested, fell in love with, and took in a yellow lab mix, later named Clementine. Clem's a bouncy adolescent pup, around seven months old. Full of energy, friendly and social, she was everything we want to see in the dogs we take in to our shelter. She was in good health, with the exception of what looked to me like a very bad ear infection (though I'm no vet, so I was only guessing). I was sure she'd need to see one of our vets as soon as possible to get the ear flushed, and wondered if she would even need to be treated under anesthesia, possibly during her spay surgery. Clem kept shaking her head, something dogs often do if their ears are painful or itchy, and I was glad we would be able to help her to be more comfortable soon.

Today, after our vet's daily rounds for the shelter animals, our shelter lead, C, came to me and said that they put Clem under anesthesia immediately. I knew this must mean that Clem's ear was in very bad shape, possibly worse than I thought, because the clinic was very busy, it was an hour before they closed for the day, and dogs very rarely need to be put under right away like that.

About 45 minutes later, C returned and told me that the surgery was over. Dr. A had pulled what she said was the biggest foxtail she'd ever seen in a dog out of Clem's ear. It wasn't a small barb like what normally works its way into a dog's skin - it was the entire foxtail - a good two to 3 inches long. There was also a second piece of a foxtail, and addition to being deeper than the first, it was pretty long for a foxtail barb, at least an inch itself. She reported to me that Dr. A said Clem was most likely going to be deaf in that ear.

Clem's foxtails

Clem's foxtails to scale (paperclip is large, syringe shows length of 3ccs liquid)

I went to visit Clem as she was coming out of ansthesia, and Dr. A told us that she had had to go so deep into the ear to remove the foxtails that she was very close to the brain. Given the contact with the inner ear and proximity to the brain, there is a possibility that Celm will suffer from seizures or balance problems. The doctor told us our big danger surrounding seizures is in the next hour or so as she wakes up. Right now I'm staying at work an extra hour or so with her to moniter progress. As for her balance or other neurological or inner ear problems, only time will tell as we won't be able to see any signs until Clem comes out of anesthesia.

For all of us, Clem's tough day is a reminder that we need to check our own dogs for foxtails whenever they go to parks or other locations with dry grass. Right now she's resting, giving little tail wags and lifting her head just a bit when visiters come by. Tomorrow morning, C and I will be checking on her right away. For now we're all going to send her our good wishes and be thankful that our wonderful veterinary staff were able to help her so quickly.

We'll update you with her progress. Hopefully, her news will be good.

Clem after surgery

Good luck, Clementine! Cheers to the vets for fixing you up.


I'm going to go out and mow like crazy now!


Clem was happy and bouncy today when I went to go see her! She is such a sweet pup, I'm so happy we were able to take of her so quickly. This just reinforces my fear of foxtails!


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