Foxtails are grass-like weeds found mostly in the Western half of the U.S. They can be very dangerous for your dog. In the early spring they look just like a green bushy tail of a fox:


As things dry out (quickly…in California’s drought!) they look like this:


Both are dangerous.
The barbed seed heads of the foxtail plant can work their way into any part of your dog – from the nose to between the toes and inside the ears, eyes, and mouth and skin. Moving relentlessly forward, never back, they can travel through your dog. They penetrate skin or can be inhaled and even perforate a lung.

Because the seeds don’t break down inside the body, an embedded foxtail can lead to serious infection for your dog. Embedded foxtails can cause discharge, abscesses, swelling, pain, and death.

Signs of Foxtails:

  • Discharge from the nose, frequent or intense sneezing could indicate a foxtail lodged in a nasal passage. Seek veterinary assistance immediately.
  • Redness, discharge, swelling, squinting, and pawing all may be signs your dog has a foxtail lodged in its eye. Seek veterinary care immediately.
  • Head shaking, tilting, or scratching incessantly at an ear, could be the sign of a foxtail in the ear or ear canal. See your vet to check with a scope.
  • Licking, swelling of limping of the feet. Check for foxtails embedded between toes. Persistent licking at genitals could indicate also indicate foxtails. If you see a foxtail seed or spur in an area other than nose, eye or ear (see a vet for those) – carefully pull it straight out making sure not to break off any portion.

Dogs that appear to have entered a patch of foxtails may benefit from shaving of the hair. It’s important to remove all of the barbs, even those that are especially tiny as they can cause serious infection if they aren’t removed or if they are left untreated.

Your To-Do List:

  • Remove foxtails from your yard by pulling the weeds instead of mowing or cutting with a power trimmer to avoid spreading the seeds.
  • Keep your dog out of overgrown, grassy areas.
  • Examine your pet’s paws, coat, ears, eyes and face – including mouth and gums – thoroughly if you have been in open fields or even neighborhood parks given our dry conditions. While you’re at it, look for those nasty ticks!

Foxtails can be dangerous – and even deadly. Put an eagle eye on your fur kids to keep them safe.