The summer months in northern California are a great time to enjoy the company of your pets. But be watchful for foxtails as your cats and dogs venture outside.

Foxtails are grass-like weeds with seeds that stick to your clothes and pets. Foxtail seeds have a fish hook-like structure (or barb) that make them particularly dangerous for your pet as they tend to embed themselves in your pet’s feet, ears, eyes, mouth, skin, coat and even their “personal” areas.

Not only do these “fish hook-like” seeds produce tremendous discomfort for your pet, they are also a source of infections, abscesses, and ulcers as they do not break down within your pet’s body.

Foxtails can become particularly dangerous if swallowed or inhaled as they can mechanically interfere with breathing and digestion and also result in severe infections. You should note that foxtails, given their shape and normal pet motion, travel while on your pet–moving from tail to head–making them quite dangerous for the eyes, ears, mouth, and internal systems.

Signs of Foxtails

Signs that your pet has a foxtail include general discomfort, redness, swelling, discharge and the licking of an area. Once under the skin, foxtails cause redness and inflammation. Below are some common locations and signs your pet has a foxtail as they, themselves, try to remove it:

  • Feed, Pads, or Toes: Frequent feet licking or chewing—or even limping.
  • Ears: Violent or frequent head shaking, tilting of the head to one side, or persistent ear scratching (foxtail possibly in the outer or inner ear)
  • Eyes: Redness, watery eyes, squinting, or eye discharge
  • Nose: Runny nose or frequent sneezing (foxtail possibly in the nasal cavity)
  • Throat: Frequent or prolonged coughing or wheezing
  • Anal or Genital Area: Frequent licking or aggressive chewing


You should closely examine your pet after every outdoor excursion and immediately remove foxtails from non-sensitive areas that have not yet become embedded in your pet. Don’t forget to review your pet’s face, gums, ears, paw pads (and between the toes), and tail. While you should use tweezers to remove foxtails, you should not attempt to remove any foxtails that have become embedded in your pet. Contact us immediately.

To the greatest extent possible at this time of year, you and your pet should avoid weeded areas and discourage your pet from chewing or eating grassy weeds. Of course, you should also remove any grassy weeds from your yard or pet’s play area.

Medical Attention

Embedded foxtails or those in the eyes, inner ears, mouth, feet, skin or anal or genital areas require immediate veterinary attention to remove every part (including microscopic portions) to prevent infection. In fact, foxtails can even be difficult for veterinarians to locate and treat once under the skin.

Act quickly–particularly if you believe your pet may have ingested or inhaled foxtails. After removal of any foxtail, treatment may include flushing the impacted area, antibiotics, or anti-inflammatory medicine. Foxtails can be life-threatening as they can migrate to and impact internal organs, so please call us when any concerns arise.

Kirkwood Veterinary Staff

To care for your cats and dogs, our medical team is composed of an exceptional group of seasoned veterinarians and 11 technicians and office personnel.

In fact, our doctors were trained at the very best veterinary schools in the United States and collectively have more than one-half century of hands-on experience helping cats and dogs. Below is a summary of our doctors who are here to help your pets.

Kirkwood Veterinarians
 Dr. Stanley Ueno received a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from Washington State University and has been helping cats and dogs for more than 30 years providing general, specialty, and emergency care–including consultations, preventative medicine, and surgery.

Dr. Frolich Lim received his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine and he enjoys the clinical side of veterinary medicine, especially dentistry and preventative medicine.

Dr. Alaine Hu received her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of California Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine and specializes in general and emergency care.

We all hope you and your pet have a relaxing and fun-filled summer.