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weed seeds that look like corkscrews

For those whose dogs are hiking partners, Kay likes a new safety garment: the OutFox Field Guard, a net that can be attached to a dog’s collar. It looks like a lost piece of canine costuming from "The Mosquito Coast" or "Outbreak." But for some it also could be smart. “It’s the invention of someone who loves dogs,” Kay said.

Kay, author of the pet healthcare book “Speaking for Spot” and publisher of the Speaking for Spot website, blogs as perennially as grass grows about how to protect dogs from foxtails. She reckons that the best precaution is staying out of areas with foxtails: along mountain trails, vacant lots and even in lawns.

To protect the rest of the body, Kay recommends taking your dog to the vet or groomer and asking for a “foxtail cut” that trims fur away from paws, making them easy to inspect. Inspect, we should, she stressed, after every trip to afflicted areas. Check paws, armpits, tail, eyes, nose, eyes.

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Southern California Living

At the top of my list and also the lists of veterinarian Nancy Kay and UC Davis weed scientist Joseph DiTomaso are foxtails. Depending on where you live, foxtails might be any number of grasses with needle-like seed heads. After a spectacularly wet winter and a mild, unusually long growing season this year, foxtails are still standing — and at their most deadly: dry and brittle. The seeds are primed to embed themselves in your dog. In Southern California, DiTomaso said common foxtail-type grasses are wild barley, Hordeum murinum, and ripgut brome.

And if you are mowing a yard that has foxtails? “Mowing them down isn’t adequate because they’re dry," Kay said. "After mowing them, you have to rake and get them out of your yard.” Put them in your green waste bin rather than compost them at home. Municipal compost piles get much hotter than small domestic ones and therefore kill weed seeds more effectively.

Signs that a dog has foxtails include compulsive licking of paws or convulsive sneezing, which Kay described as, “the kind where they hit their nose on their ground, they’re sneezing so hard.” If this happens, she urges the pet owner to get to the vet sooner rather than later. After imagining (wrongly) that my terrier’s sneezes were the product of a tour through pollen-laden flowers, I can speak from experience that later costs a lot more.

The problem with foxtails is that once they become embedded in your dog and begin traveling through it, they don’t break down, Kay said. Rather, the hooking design that enables foxtails to burrow in soil keeps them moving forward in animals. Some foxtails might enter the paw and eventually pop out the elbow. Foxtails that go up the nose might be swallowed and safely pooped out, but awns sucked in by a panting dog running full tilt with nose to the ground can end up in the lungs.

Some seeds float in the wind others helicopter to the ground these interesting weed seeds of the Redstem Stork’s Bill corkscrew their way into the ground. Each “storks bill” which is the sword like projections off the plant are cluster of five seeds, each with the long tail tapering out to the end of the “bill”. These tails are tightly bound and make the central, elongated “bill”. At maturity, what becomes the corkscrew peels off the long “bill” and starts to curl, remaining attached to the seed. The familiar corkscrews then twist into the soil as they go through day-night cycles of wetting and drying, each time the spiral forces the sharp seed deeper into the soil. Eventually the seed breaks off, leaving hundreds of cork screws.