Dogs and Foxtails Don't Mix

Protecting Your Dog From Foxtails — Looks Are Deceiving

Dogs and Foxtails

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 that can become lodged anywhere on your dog, other animals, and even yourself (Source: Shockingly they are found in most states west of the Mississippi.

Ok, that should just say it all. Spikes? Barbs? Yikes! What’s worse is that if your dog comes into contact with this dangerous grass, whether while it’s soft and wispy or dry and brittle, it will most likely mean you’re immediately heading to the vet and your dog will need (an invasive and expensive) surgery.

Trust me, foxtails are in abundance every time you step outside your home with your dog in the Spring and Summer. I can’t stress this enough.

What’s the big deal? 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.

Foxtail Stages

What foxtails look like from pre-blooming to cut down and dried out.

  • Foxtail before blooming
  • Foxtail blooming
  • Foxtail blooming
  • Foxtail drying out
  • Foxtail dried out

Why Foxtails Are Dangerous For Your Dogs

Some types of foxtails have backward pointing barbs and can only move forward. These dangerous plants are in many yards, even those that are well manicured. When they are mowed/cut they dry out and become (even more hazardous) spikelets, sometimes breaking off from the cluster and becoming an even tinier but no less damaging danger.

These spikelets can attach themselves to your dog in a instant and start to dig themselves deeper and deeper inside your dog.

Points of contact can be anywhere: paws, eyes, ears, nose, private area including anus, or anywhere from head to tail.

How to Prevent Foxtails Injuries

Foxtails might be on a hiking trail, in your neighbor’s yard, or even your own sidewalk.

The best ways to prevent foxtail injuries are:


Avoid areas where foxtails are present, at least within reason — Foxtails are everywhere during Spring and Summer


Remove any foxtails, including the roots, before they bloom and are cut down. Dry foxtails are especially dangerous.


If you can’t avoid foxtails and they are on public property and not on your private property, clean up their barbs*.

Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment for Foxtail Injuries

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
  • — Licking


It’s important to catch foxtails 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.

If you suspect or know that your dog has contracted a foxtail, immediately contact your vet and prevent your dog from licking or scratching the entry point.

Other Tips When Dealing with Foxtails

Train Your Dog

A good tool is to ask your dog to ‘Leave It’ or ‘Come’. If you need help teaching your dog these behaviors please inquire about my next dog training classes or private dog training options.


If you suspect your dog has been around foxtails, thoroughly and carefully scan them from head to tail, including under their entire coat, inside their ears, mouth, between their toes and toe pads.


Anytime you are working with foxtails, wear gloves, long pants, long sleeves, and boots, and remove all barbs from any equipment before carrying it back into your garage/home.

Important Dog Training Tools To Avoid Foxtails

There are going to be many times when you are out and about and spot foxtails. In these moments it will helpful to ask your dog to Leave It, Come, or Heel.

If you need help teaching your dog these behaviors, check out my dog training classes and/or private dog training options.

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

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

Foxtails are dangerous for your dog

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