9575 El Camino Real Atascadero, CA 93422

"A Full Service Veterinary Hospital Serving the Pets, People,
and Veterinarians of the Central Coast."


Stella is a very affectionate three year old Pitbull. While volunteering at a local shelter her owner’s decided it was time adopt a new canine family member. After seeing the high percentage of pitbulls that were given up on, The Ranson family chose to adopt Stella. At ten months old, just out of the shelter, Stella was a hand full. Her owners enrolled her in dog training classes where she quickly went from worst in the class to star student. Earning her place at home and in her family’s heart, Stella spends her days hiking with dad, greeting visitors and being a great protector.

After several days of coughing with an occasional hacking Stella visited Atascadero Pet Hospital & Emergency Center for the first time. She greeted the staff with her tail wagging and wet kisses. Stella appeared to be a happy well cared for pet with no prior illnesses. While in the exam room she coughed several times. Symptoms like these are common on the Central Coast of California during summer months. When fields of grasses dry out, the foxtails drop from the stems and can enter the eyes, ears, nasal passages, mouth or potentially penetrate into the skin and other areas. Having a foxtail lodged in the tonsils, esophagus, trachea/larynx or lungs may induce coughing or hacking. If foxtails are not removed they can migrate and create an abscess after a period of time.

After Stella was examined, I explained the two common causes of acute onset coughing during this time of year are foxtails or kennel cough. Stella owners decided to proceed with an evaluation of the oral cavity and larynx under anesthesia. Since I had a planned procedure using our bronchoscope for another patient, I took the opportunity to use it on Stella and give the staff a view of normal canine lungs. A bronchoscope is a narrow endoscope that is used to evaluate the inner lungs. It is inserted through the mouth, down trachea and from there we can follow the labyrinth of branching airways to evaluate most of the bronchi.

To our surprise, once I placed the endoscope in the lungs of Stella and followed the tortuous path down to the caudal right lobe I was facing a large amount of plant material lodged in one of the minor right bronchi. We introduced forceps through the instrument port of the endoscope and started playing a retrieval game with the plant material. It lasted 45 minutes and resulted in pulling 4 large foxtails.

Stella recovered from anesthesia as expected. We sent her home with a course of antibiotics for three weeks and she never looked back......until she returned for her recheck with a foxtail in her left nasal passage. It was pulled with no complications.





Stella is lucky that we ended up finding the foxtails and removing them when we did. If foreign plant material (foxtails) sits in the lungs it will create a pocket of infection in the lungs and can cause severe illness to pets. When the pocket ruptures it compromises the life of the patient and requires expensive and complicated thoracic surgery.

We’ve learned from Stella's case that we should be evaluating more patients that present with the same symptoms as her with the bronchoscope to check for foxtails in the lungs. Today Stella is a happy and healthy dog who is back to hiking, greeting visitors and protecting her home. She is a source of comfort and joy to her owners and has undoubtedly taught us a lesson on foxtails.



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