Dog owners urged to be cautious as ‘harmful’ weed spreads in Calgary

The barbed seeds of foxtail barley can lodge in the skin of dogs, which could result in an expensive trip to the vet

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A Calgary city councilman and the local humane society are urging Calgarians to keep a close eye on their dogs as a harmful weed is rampant in the city this summer.

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Foxtail barley is a grass native to Alberta that has become quite prevalent in several common dog-walking areas across the city this year, according to Ward 12 Coun. Eve Spencer. The spiked seeds of the plant can find their way into the mouths, paws, noses, and skin of curious dogs, becoming lodged and causing pain and discomfort to the animal.

“There are a lot of people in Calgary whose furry relatives have ended up in the vet clinic,” Spencer said.

The Calgary Humane Society is aAssociate Director of Operations Lisa Olund said it’s important for owners to monitor their pets during and after walks. If left untreated or unnoticed, the wound can become infected, which could lead to an expensive trip to the vet.

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“The danger of foxtails is the fact that the hard seeds don’t break down inside the body, so an embedded foxtail can really lead to a serious infection in a dog,” Olund said.

“They are absolutely everywhere. Just on my own rides, it’s basically areas that don’t get mowed often. So if you’re at a dog park and you see some kind of overgrown grass off to the side, it’s best to avoid it.”

Olund said dog owners should give their pets a quick brushing and checkup after every walk, inspecting the paws, mouth, nose and ears for signs of inflammation or discomfort. She said to call the vet if there is swelling or severe irritation.

As for the continued spread of the weed, Spencer said the problem is largely out of the city’s control due to the resources needed to effectively combat the spread of foxtail barley. Currently, he said, city crews are timing mowing to cut down the plant before it goes to seed and some developers are helping by clearing construction sites.

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He said there is a public push to add the plant to the city’s list of noxious weeds and create statutes that would allow the city to “slam the hammer down a little harder” on those who leave their weeds unchecked. In that case, though, Spencer said the city would also need to step up its efforts to combat the plant in public spaces, a move that could eat up a ton of city resources.

“It would probably be a lot of extra work for the Community Standards to try to top it off. An ordinance without really the ability to enforce it is a problem,” he said. “We will keep that on the table as an office because the statutes… also help shape public opinion and behaviors. If at any point in our interactions with the city they feel like it could be an effective part of a toolkit to deal with this, we’ll likely introduce it.”

He said the best way to ensure animals don’t get hurt, or get quick treatment if they step on a seed, is for pet owners to be aware and alert to the situation and avoid areas where weeds tend to thrive.

[email protected]

Twitter: @miguelrdrguez

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