• Pet Waggin' Pet Care Team

Out-Foxing The Foxtail


With summer in full swing, foxtail plants are spreading and can easily cause harm to our pets. Foxtail grass’ barbed seeds pose a variety of health risks to dogs especially. Foxtail is an annually growing grass, that reaches between 1 and 3 feet in height. Foxtail grass likes a damp environment and proliferates near ponds and waterways. Foxtail seeds are adapted to be easily spread, with the barbed seed head latching onto the fur of passing animals, and being transported to a new location to grow. 


Foxtail seeds are extremely irritating and often dangerous to our pets. They can be easily inhaled, causing violent sneezing and bloody nasal discharge, they can work their way into eyes and ears, they can cause choking and gagging if swallowed, or can become painfully caught in a pet’s teeth,  and they can even penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream.



Take a look at what symptoms your dog may experience if exposed to foxtails:


1. Ears:

Shaking his head excessively, or constantly tilting it one way or the other, or scratching his ears more than normal could indicate foxtails in his ears or ear canal.


2. Eyes and Nose:

Sneezing, coughing, discharge from its eyes and or nose, squinting, or blinking excessively, can mean foxtails caught in the eyes or sinuses.


3. Mouth:

Coughing, gagging, smacking his lips excessively, can be indications of a foxtail caught in his throat or mouth. 


4. Genitals:

If your dog seems to be obsessively licking the area, or has blood in their urine, there could be a foxtail lodged in their genitals.


5. Feet:

Limping, or frequently licking feet can mean your dog has foxtails lodged in their feet, be extra sure to check in between your pooch’s toes and remove any foxtails you find.



Be on the lookout for any of these symptoms, especially after walks and outdoor playtime. If you suspect your dog has foxtails, seek veterinary care immediately as they can become fatal if left unaddressed. If you know your dog had foxtails in his ears or mouth, take him to the vet right away, even if you think you removed them all. Foxtails can easily be swallowed or burrow their way deeply into the ear canal.



Here are a few steps you can take to prevent foxtail-related problems all together: 


1. Regularly check your dog’s feet, face, and tummy for foxtails after a walk or a trip to the park, use a fine-toothed comb if you know your dog was in an area with foxtails. Remove any you might find with tweezers. Stubborn foxtails can often be removed from a dog’s feet by applying a hot compress to soften the skin and open up the area. Consult your veterinarian before you do anything if you are having trouble extracting the foxtails with tweezers alone. 


2. As much as possible, keep your dog out of overgrown areas that might be harboring foxtails. 


3. Keep your yard well maintained, and foxtail free, especially during the summer months when the seeds are most hazardous. 


4. Keep your dog well groomed, brush and bathe him regularly and keep mats and tangles in his fur to a minimum. 


This summer, be on the lookout for foxtails and avoid these areas when you are out and about with your furry buddy. 

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