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Hidden in the long grass: the lethal foxtail that’s killing dogs

Hidden in the long grass: the lethal foxtail that’s killing dogs

You might need to keep a tighter leash on your pooch this summer as reports of deadly foxtail grass make grazing dangerous.


What’s the story?

According to an article in The Telegraph, the warm weather has caused foxtail grass to spring up over parks and gardens across the country. The seeds they carry are shaped like darts – perfect for penetrating pooch skin or inhaling – where they then burrow deeper, causing painful and in some cases life-threatening tissue damage.

Often dogs will catch the seeds in paws and fur, but they can puncture eardrums and make them deaf. And if they’re inhaled or swallowed they can be difficult to remove. Tragically this means your dog might have to be put down.

Why now?

Last year saw record amounts of foxtail grass, thanks to the cool, wet spring according to botanical specialist Dr Trevor Dines, from charity Plantlife. He explains that: ‘In particular, the cool conditions in March and April held many grass species back – when warmer conditions finally arrived in May and June many species grew suddenly seeded abundantly at the same time, which might lead to an increase in reports of problems.’

In 2015, foxtail grass was the cause of nearly 500 dog injuries, with insurance companies predicting them to be the most common summer claim – costing owners up to £350.

Why is it lethal?

While the exact figure of deaths is unknown, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) told The Telegraph that the seeds alone are rarely lethal, although associated injuries may kill. But getting a seed lodged in tummies or lungs can cause abscesses to develop, so says Gudrun Ravetz, the junior vice president of the BVA.

‘The severity of the resulting infection or the potential abscess is what can place owners in the position of their dog undergoing difficult surgery or euthanasia. This isn’t a new problem, but owners should be aware of the issues grass seeds can cause if not treated.’

How can you avoid it?

Check your lawn for long grass and keep it mown short as much as you can. Give your dog a good once over when they’ve been out to play to check for any seeds in their coat or paws. If your dog has been sneezing or coughing more than usual, they may have gotten a seed lodged inside, so get it checked out at the vets right away.

If you’re worried the grass in your usual park or field might have long foxtail grass growing, change where you go for a walk. Dogs crave new environments anyway – it’s great for keeping them mentally stimulated – so now is the perfect time to start mixing up your routine.

Download PoochPlay for free today for more life-changing doggie tips that’ll keep your dog fit and healthy – nose to tail.

How to introduce your dog to your new baby

How to introduce your dog to your new baby

Your dog will know something’s going on as soon as you’re pregnant. Repainting that spare bedroom, moving in new furniture – or even making the decision to sell your house fast – and they’ll know things are changing.


But just because your pooch has figured out that there’s new emotions in the air doesn’t mean they’ll understand what those feelings mean, and it might unsettle even the calmest dog. Take this steps to make sure your furry friend is as ready for your new arrival as you are.



Now is the time to get any behaviour kinks ironed out. You’ve got nine months to work through any issues or bad habits so start working on them right away. If you need to, hire a professional dog trainer. You’ll appreciate it when you have a calm, well-behaved dog as you bring home your baby.



You might love the way your dog crawls onto your lap when they know you’re upset but that awareness of your emotions extends further than you think. Feeling anxious or worried about your new arrival? Your dog will too, so learn how to create a sense of calm that will make them feel safe when the baby comes.



Once you’ve had the baby, send home something that smells like your newborn – a babygro or blanket, for example. Ask your dog to sniff it from a safe distance while you’re holding the item. Don’t let them come to close – this way, you’ll set boundaries for your pooch and stop them getting too near the baby right away.


By restricting how close your dog can come, you’ll be demonstrating that they need to follow your rules around the smell. And it’ll get them used to the new scent before the baby comes home.



Start with the nursery. To begin with, make it off-limits and teach your dog that they’re not allowed to go in there without being invited. Once they’ve understood this rule you can let them explore and sniff under your supervision. Repeat this regularly before the baby arrives.



On the day you’re due to introduce you baby to the home, take your dog for a long walk to get them tired out. Make sure your pooch is calm and submissive before you invite them in, as the minute they get that nose through the door, they’ll know there’s a new smell in the house.


Hopefully, this will be a familiar one by now and they won’t react with excitement. Stay calm and let your dog sniff the baby from a safe distance. Gradually, you can bring your pup closer and closer.


As soon as your little one is toddling, they’re going to start pulling, grabbing and falling on your patient pooch. Supervise all interactions between them and start teaching your child not to play rough. A usually calm and loving dog might well react to a sudden yank of the tail, so avoid accidents by teaching them both to play nice from the start.



Don’t forget about your pooch once your baby comes. It’s essential you keep up a daily routine of walks, cuddles and leadership. PoochPlay can help by reminding you when it’s time for a run around and alerting you that your dog hasn’t had enough exercise today. Keep consistent and your dog will feel secure and relaxed around your baby.



Some breeds have a reputation for being rough around babies, but it’s unfair and unwise to blame their genes alone. All dogs can learn to be loving around a child – the key is in the way you handle the situation and your dog. Don’t assume a Rottweiler will be more aggressive than a spaniel. Invest the time and effort needed for your dog to feel safe and loved and they’ll welcome the baby with open paws.


With time and effort your pooch will soon love your new baby as much as you do. Just lay the groundwork now and you should have nothing to fear.



How to keep your dog healthy, one meal at a time

How to keep your dog healthy, one meal at a time

Just like you, your pooch needs a healthy diet to stay in shape. But how do you know what and how much to feed them? We explain.


Choosing what to feed your dog can be a minefield. That’s why we use advice from vets and our knowledge about individual breeds and needs to help you pick the right food for your dog. Read on to find out a bit more about what’s on offer.


Dry food

Easy and convenient, dry foods are usually packed with nutrition and come tailored to puppies, dogs and golden oldies. They offer balanced meals and don’t need supplementing with anything else. The convenient choice.


Wet food

Some wet foods also offer everything your pooch needs. Others will need to be mixed with meal or biscuit to provide fibre. Your dog might like it better but it can be trickier to transport and open packages will need covering and refrigerating to avoid flies – and bad smells.



You can also feed your dog meat, fish, bread, rice and add your own vitamins and minerals. Some people prefer this as they know exactly what their dog is eating, but be warned: it’s unlikely you’ll be able to provide the complex, balanced diet your pup needs.


Feeding puppies

Puppies grow a lot in their early days, so they need plenty of nutrition to do it right. Pick a puppy growth diet and feed it to your baby pooch in small portions, several times a day. They’ll need four meals a day between 6 and 12 weeks old; three meals between 12 and 20 weeks and two meals daily from 20 weeks.


How much you feed your little pup depends on their breed. Your PoochPlay app will recommend how much to give them and when, but generally you should start with the smallest recommended quantity for their age and size. If your puppy isn’t growing properly, then feed them a little bit more.


Consistency is key for delicate little tummies so make every meal the same. Never give a puppy dairy products as it’s likely to cause havoc with their insides – they don’t need it after they’ve left their mum.


Feeding adults

Once your dog is between an year and 18 months old, you can switch to grown-up food. Make your choice of wet or dry food – then stick to it. If you do need to change your dog’s diet you should do it gradually. Mix some of the new food in with the old and reduce it bit by bit.


As with puppies, always feed your dog the smallest recommended quantity of food – PoochPlay can help you with this estimate. Leaner dogs will have more energy, be less prone to diseases and live longer.


Golden oldies

Ah, the middle age spread – it gets us all! Fortunately for your pooch, you can stop them gaining weight as they age with a few tweaks to their diet. They’ll need fewer calories and a complete food that’s made specifically for them.


As older dogs are more likely to develop arthritis it’s important they don’t carry extra weight that could hurt their joints – they shouldn’t be any fatter as they age than they were in their prime.


Not hungry?

Provided there’s nothing wrong with your dog, don’t worry if they miss a couple of meals from time to time. Maybe they’re just not hungry.


But if your pooch suddenly stops eating or gets an upset stomach, contact your vet. And if your pooch regularly leaves food, you’re probably feeding it too much. They should be clearing their bowl with every meal – two bowls a day is ideal.


Training them with food

Much like with a baby, giving your dog too much choice and variety can make them picky. Give them the same meal every time, put it down and leave them with 15 minutes to eat it. Then remove it, praise them if they’ve eaten it all and throw away what they haven’t.


Don’t make a fuss or give them something else – they’ll learn quickly that being fussy means they go hungry. And if not eating gets them attention, they’ll use it to their advantage.


Little extras

Treats are a brilliant way to train your dog, or keep them happy on a trip to the vets. But sadly, treats mean calories so you need to compensate with the amount of food you give them. There are low calories treats available or you could using a treat ball – make them work for the goodies!


PoochPlay will tailor diet and nutrition plans to the needs of your individual dog. As we learn more about how much your pup exercises and the way food affects their weight, we can recommend how, what and when to feed them. So you have the happiest, healthiest dog possible – for longer.