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Foxtails And Dogs – Why Are They Dangerous?

Dogs Affected By Foxtails

Why Foxtails Are Dangerous for Dogs?

Foxtail plants are also called mean seeds, grass seed awns, timothy, June grass, cheatgrass, or Downy Brome. They are a weed-type grass that can wreak havoc on the dogs.

Flourishing in the summer and spring months, the barbed seed heads of the foxtails may attach to your pet’s coat and burrow into the skin. When they’re ingested, swallowed, inhaled, or stepped on, it will lead to pain, infection, and sometimes more serious issues.

These annoying weedy grasses grow so prolifically, near impossible to avoid, and deadly to your pup if left unchecked. Luckily, there are a lot of things you can do to keep your pet safe from these pesky weeds.

Foxtail Grass and Your Dog: Symptoms

Signs your pup is lodged with Foxtail Grasses. There are different symptoms to look for, depending on where the foxtail has lodged.


  • Limping
  • Swelling or discharge between the toes
  • Constant licking between the toes


  • Shaking their head
  • Pawing or scratching incessantly at an ear
  • Redness and discharge from the ear
  • Head tilt


  • Redness and swelling
  • Discharge (clear or greenish or slightly yellow)
  • Squinting and pawing


  • Difficulty breathing
  • Discharge from the nose
  • Sneezing frequently and intensely
  • Coughing/gagging


  • Persistent licking

Treatment Options for Foxtail Problems

  • There is no such separate treatment for foxtails penetration as such
  • Vets remove the offending seeds under an anesthetic and surgical procedure,.
  • Your dog may experience abscesses due to the nature of the seed, that need draining
  • Antibiotics may be needed to treat infection
  • The removal of the seed is a minor medical procedure (unless the seed hasn’t caused any serious harm) with after care medication and instructions provided.
  • Most symptoms resolve rapidly over 24 – 96 hours after a foxtail is located and removed. Continual symptoms may signify the presence of additional foxtails

Home Remedies for Foxtail Problems

  • Weed-whack your backyard often. We hate to ever recommend the use of any herbicides or propane-torch “weed burners” … When the grass is all over your property and you are unable to prevent your dog from getting foxtails, we wouldn’t blame you for resorting to this.
  • Don’t use a string trimmer as they may scatter the seeds widely. Keeping the heads cut short with Mowerweed-wackeris enough.
  • Examining dogs (smooth or medium coat) after they've been outdoors in awn-prevalent locales is important.
  • Brushing dogs the haircoat (heavy/double-coat dog) can be helpful to remove foxtails before they ever wiggle into the dog’s flesh.
  • Long-haired dogs can be clipped during the foxtail season.
  • hunting dog may need extra protection.
    Pet face shields like OutFox Field Guard, foxtail free hoddies can be helpful to protect for mouth, eyes, and ears.
    For paw protection: smooth-sided ventilated dog shoes, Kurgo, PAWZ, Muttluks, and Ruffwear

Foxtail and Dogs: Prevention

  • Prevention is key! Get rid of foxtails you find in your yard, prevent exposure and avoid foxtail plant-infested areas like overgrown paths or open fields.
  • When walking, stick to beaten-down paths
  • If you must walk in areas where there are foxtails, don’t let your dogs run through high grass and keep your dog on-leash
  • long-haired dogs should be comb-checked  or trim the hair between the belly, toes, and ears
  • Check your dog’s coat regularly during foxtail season or after any potential exposure

Affected Dog Breeds of Foxtails

  • There is no breed predisposition. Mostly, working and hunting dog breeds
  • Dogs in most areas of the U.S.( North America), Canada, and the UK
  • These weeds with hairy, bristle-like spines grow on roadsides, hiking trails, backyards and open fields.

Additional Facts of Foxtails

Foxtail is a spikelet or cluster of grass that have seeds with arrow-like barbs enclosed with tiny bristles that are arranged in a single direction, like the teeth on a nail file or rasp. This enters the dog through an orifice or penetrates the skin, while the curved barb prevents it from working its way back out.

Sharp seed heads don’t just settle. The awn tends to detach (somewhat like a lizard’s tail). They keep moving with every movement of the dog. Gradually advancing through tissue often leaving a hollow tract behind it, towards lungs, perforate intestines, migrate to brain etc.

It’s always moving forward — never backward or dissolving on its own. Only one-way trip to the inside of your dog and the only option is removal.

If foxtail incursions are not found and removed, they can literally disappear, because they won’t show up on an x-ray and pose serious problems to the dog.

When To See A Vet For Foxtails Problems?

Easily accessible foxtail invasions in your dogs can be removed with tweezers.

On the other hand, for deeply lodged foxtails or if the area around it is swollen or red, call your veterinarian right away.

Food Suggestions For Foxtails

Tasty and attractive foods– to cheer your dog to eat.

High in energy foods with easily digestible ingredients, as your dog will have very little appetite.

Low carbs, high in protein and fats as recovering dogs may be insulin resistant.


Like a fishhook, the mini torpedo-shaped foxtails may get impossibly stuck in the dogs and are designed to never back out – manual removal is the only option.

Even the most diligent owner can miss a foxtail injury. Disregard the sneaky and stubborn foxtails that can cause abscesses, infections, or worse. The best course of action is the trip to the vet.

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