SASKATOON -- Last summer, Carolyn Barton noticed something was off with her dog Abby, after she had come in from her family’s backyard in the Rosewood neighbourhood.

“She had a really weird cough for about a day, and it was all the time and all night long,” said Barton.

Barton took Abby to the vet, who revealed the problem was foxtail, a type of plant commonly found around Saskatoon.

“She had them all like in her mouth, they couldn't pull them out,”she said. “[Abby] was crying and whimpering, and they sedated her and said her tonsils were full.”

Natasha Sabin with the VCA Canada Central Animal Hospital says they generally see “a few in the fall” but a higher number of dogs than normal are being brought in with foxtail.

“Dogs have a bit of a pocket around their tonsils at the back of their throat,” she said. “The long hairs on [the foxtail] tend to get lodged in there and so they act like a sliver, they poke in back there they get hung up, and they're really, really irritating.”

Sabin says if left untreated, the area can get inflamed and potentially infected, but it’s fairly obvious to tell if a dog is dealing with foxtail.

“A fairly sudden onset of clinical signs, and those signs tend to be coughing, the dog may be drooling more than normal, they may be swallowing repeatedly, they may actually even kind of bring up some phlegm if they're coughing.”

“Some dogs are trying to eat everything, so they might be wanting to go outside and they're scarfing down grass, licking the floor, and all of these dogs tend to be very, very anxious.”

A similar situation played out for Mandy Manz and her dog Remmy, who live on a farm.

“He started sneezing and doing this crazy thing with his mouth,” said Manz.

“They put him under, and they sedated him and then they put a scope up his nose and they found a culprit. It was foxtail,” she said, adding that her dog’s vet bills totalled nearly $400.

“Try to stay away from foxtails because it's going to end up with a vet bill.”

Barton says strong winds this summer have carried foxtail into her backyard, and she’s concerned for her dog.

“We don't really let her outside unsupervised because we're worried that she will eat them,” she said. They’ve even put Abby in a dog daycare rather than let her into the backyard, because it’s cheaper than vet bills.

“We try not to let her stick her nose on the ground when we walk her, it's a losing battle though.”

Sabin agrees, that’s about the best thing to do.

“Avoid the foxtails,” she said. “If you've got them in your yard, try and keep them clear, get rid of them. If you're out on a walk with your dog, don't let them eat them. And if they are bad at the dog parks, or that kind of thing, then just stay away until they're till they're gone for the year.”