Protecting Your Dog From Foxtails — Looks Are Deceiving

Dogs: Our amazing four legged friends of course.

Foxtails: One of our dogs’ biggest enemies. This weedy grass is so named for their spikelet clusters of bristled seeds, which are dispersed as a unit and somewhat resemble the bushy tail of a fox. In some species, these units have a pointed tip and retrose (backward pointing) barbs and can become lodged in the ears and nostrils of dogs, other animals, and humans (Source:

Ok, that should just say it all. Spike? Barbs? Yikes! What’s worse is that these soft, wispy looking plants are found in most states west of the Mississippi and mean you’re a vet visit, and possibly (an expensive and invasive) surgery, waiting to happen every time you step outside of the house with your dog in the Spring/Summer.

Trust me, they are in abundance in Southern California. I can’t stress that enough.

Feet and Paws_Foxtails and Dogs_How To Protect Your Dog From FoxtailsWhat’s the big deal? Mostly when dry, these pesky plant heads can embed themselves anywhere on your dog. Sadly, that is not an exaggeration. From ear canals, eyes, and other more private ‘openings’ to inside throats and between toes, foxtails have no mercy.

Why? How?

Well, since some foxtails have backward pointing barbs, they can only move forward. With clusters of spikelets, they can attach themselves to your dog in a instant and start digging themselves deeper and deeper inside your dog.

How to Avoid Foxtails Injuries:

The easiest way to avoid foxtail injuries is to avoid areas where they are present, at least within reason (if it hasn’t been stressed enough, foxtails are everywhere during the Spring and Summer). In other words, they might be on either side of the hiking trail and in some of your neighbor’s yards, so be on the look out and don’t allow your dog to go near these areas. A good tool is to ask your dog to ‘Leave It’ or ‘Come’.

If you need help teaching your dog these commands, please reach out to us to discuss scheduling private dog training lessons or inquire about our next group dog training class series.

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Signs and Symptoms:

If your dog is unfortunate enough to have contracted a foxtail, they will display symptoms of discomfort/pain. Behavior could include: head shaking, difficulty breathing, coughing, scratching, and licking.

Feet and Paws_Foxtails and Dogs_Protecting Your Dog From FoxtailsTreatment: Avoiding areas with foxtails is the best way to prevent the possibility of your dog contracting one (or multiple). If you know you were around foxtails, thoroughly scan your dog, including under it’s entire coat of fur, inside it’s ears, mouth, and other entry points as well as between it’s toes and toe pads. It’s important to catch a foxtail early to prevent infection, tissue damage, and further migration deeper into the body. Once internal, foxtails are very hard to locate and remove and they do not disintegrate or decompose.

Contact your vet immediately if you feel your dog has a foxtail-related issue/symptom.

Hope you enjoy your next walk .. and don’t be afraid to point out these plants to other dog owners.

Have a great day with your dog and remember, foxtails and dogs don’t mix!

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