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Foxtails – A pain in the... everywhere

Foxtails-danger-to-pets.jpg’Tis the season for foxtails – those pesky (and painful) grass seed awns that you’ve no doubt walked by countless times on the side of the road, on a trail, or in the field.

Grass seeds are designed to do one thing – to burrow

And while this is an effective way for these grasses to spread their seeds, it’s what also makes them such a hazard to dogs.

Due to the unique shape of this seed, it’s always moving forward – never backward. Forward through your pet’s skin. Forward through their eyes, ears, nose and mouth. Forward through their lungs. Forward through their paws. And even forward through your pet’s “private swimsuit” areas.

Foxtails can cause debilitating pain and infection

Dog's body parts that foxtails have been pulled out of (partial list):

  1. ears (likely the #1 most common spot)
  2. eyes
  3. nose
  4. mouth / throat
  5. lungs
  6. paws (may compete with ears for #1 most common spot)
  7. private bits (especially in female dogs - OUCH!)

Embedded foxtails can manifest in your dogs in any number of ways. If you see any of these signs, and the time of year is right (meaning: seeds are growing and grass is dry), your pet may be suffering from an inhaled or embedded foxtail:

  • Excessive head shaking (the most common entry point is your pet's ear)
  • Limping or excessive licking of paws (paws are the second most common entry point)
  • Excessive licking of genitals
  • Blood in urine
  • Swollen eyes
  • Sneezing/coughing/gagging


Foxtail prevention aids

Of course, prevention of foxtails is ideal, but it's nearly impossible to rid foxtails from your outdoor pet’s environment, so especially during this time of year, it is more important than ever to be aware of and on the lookout for these spike-like seeds and try to avoid them, when possible.

But for those dogs that go romping through fields of grass gone-to-seed (including hunting dogs), check out these great foxtail prevention aids:

  • Face protection - OutFox Field Guard - great for protecting the eyes, ears, noses, and mouth

  • Dog booties - there are lots of great brands out there, with certain ones being better for different breeds, sizes, and/or personality of dog - both Ruffwear and Muttluks are great places to start.

You should still always check for grass seed awns and brush out your dog’s coat after any walk. But these tools above can really help spare you and your dog significant pain and financial expense!

Removing foxtails

You should always thoroughly examine and groom your dog (and cat) often – especially after they’ve been out in the elements and in potential contact with grass seeds. Remember to look at each entry point listed above.

Depending on your pet’s coat and tolerance, running a fine-toothed comb, such as a flea comb, can be a great way to detect and remove these pesky seeds before they become a problem. You can also remove foxtails using a regular brush or tweezers, or just your fingers. If you can’t easily remove the foxtail, or if your dog or cat is exhibiting any of the signs that could be related to the presence of a foxtail, be sure to see your veterinarian right away, where the problem can be properly dealt with before it escalates into something more serious.


Please note: Unless otherwise stated, products, services, and/or companies mentioned, or links to same, are for illustration purposes only and their inclusion does not constitute an endorsement from Preventive Vet. Additionally, we are NOT compensated if you choose to buy what we feature.

Topics: Dog Training, Dog Walking, Children walking dogs, Dog Leash, Retractable Leash, Grass Seeds, Grass Seed Awn, Dog Booties, What's a foxtail look like, Foxtail, Hunting Dogs, Dog face protection

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Photo Credit: Preventive Vet

Please do not ask emergency or other specific medical questions about your pets in the blog comments. As an online informational resource, Preventive Vet is unable to and does not provide specific medical advice or counseling. A thorough physical exam, patient history, and an established veterinary-patient-client relationship is required to provide specific medical advice. If you are worried that your pet is having an emergency or if you have specific medical questions related to your pet’s current or chronic medical conditions, please contact or visit your veterinarian, an animal-specific poison control hotline, or your local emergency veterinary care center.

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