Foxtails are grasses with barbed seeds that are exceptionally dangerous to dogs and outdoor cats in our area.

Foxtail seeds contain razor-sharp needles that allow the seed to penetrate the earth and begin the growing process. However, their hardened, barbed structure also enables foxtails to burrow into your pet’s skin and penetrate sensitive tissue. Foxtails are often green in the early spring — turning a golden color as the weather becomes drier and when they become particularly dangerous to pets outdoors.

Foxtail

Dangers
Foxtails are particularly dangerous when they:

  • Are inhaled into the respiratory system (including mouth, nose, sinus, throat and lungs)
  • Come in contact with the gums, eyelids or eyes
  • Attach themselves to the interior or exterior of the ears
  • Become embedded within the paws or between the toes
  • Impact the anal or genital areas
  • Burrow under the hair reaching the skin

As your pet moves, the innate shape of the foxtail causes it to burrow into your pet.

Foxtail in the Paw

While foxtails can produce significant discomfort and pain for your pet, the larger issue involves infection and health-related complications. Given foxtails are hard seeds that cannot be decomposed or absorbed by the body, they are treated as foreign objects and your pet’s natural defenses go to work resulting in inflammation, abscesses and often infection. Depending upon the location of the foxtail on your pet, the situation can quickly become life-threatening. For example, a foxtail in your pet’s lungs can become fatal.

Symptoms
Signs that your pet may be impacted by foxtails include:

  • Frequent or uncontrollable sneezing, chewing, nasal discharge, coughing or labored breathing (in the respiratory system)
  • A swollen/teary eye, squinting or eye rubbing (impacting the eyes)
  • Head tiling or frequent head shaking (impacting the ears)
  • Licking, biting, scratching, redness or inflammation of the skin, paw, or genital areas (impacting the skin)
  • Limping or discomfort when walking (impacting the legs, paw or toes)
  • Loss of appetite or lethargy (a potential infection)

If your pet exhibits any of these symptoms, please contact us immediately. We will quickly arrange for your visit and to help your pet.

Avoidance
We encourage all owners to keep their pets out of long or uncut grassy areas until the foxtail season concludes — generally in late summer. Beyond fields, this includes even small patches of tall weeds near poles, fences, parks, sports fields, vacant lots or even roadside.

We also encourage every owner to carefully examine their pets in a well lit room every time they re-enter the home. Be sure to comb their coat, examine their face and ears — paying special attention to their chest, tail and areas between the toes. It can also be helpful to trim long hair to reduce the chance of foxtails latching on to your pet.

Removal
If you encounter a foxtail that has not yet embedded itself, calm your pet and carefully remove it using tweezers.

Do not try to remove a foxtail from sensitive areas such as eyes, mouth, nose, inner ears, anus or genitals. We will happily help your pet and remove any threats. However, once a foxtail has embedded itself, sedation or anesthesia is often required to locate and remove every part of the foxtail to prevent infection.

Contact Us
Please contact us immediately if you have any questions or concerns. Foxtails are genuine threats during this time in our area and may result in serious health complications if left untreated. Please let us help keep your pet healthy and happy.