Foxtails in Dogs: Learn the Dangers

foxtails in dogs

Foxtails in dogs are a hidden danger lurking in grasses and brush that can cause pain, infection, and vet bills.

Foxtails are a type of weed found worldwide, but they have a higher concentration in California and other Western states.

Foxtails can be a pretty common sight when you are out and about with your dog. The big question is whether or not you know what they are.

In this blog post, we’ll be discussing what foxtails are, where they are found, how to avoid getting them on your dog and how to treat dogs who come into contact with these weeds.

What is a Foxtail

foxtails and dogs

Foxtails are essentially nothing more than clusters of seeds that adhere themselves to the stalks of long grass.

The clusters have sharp points to easily embed into the soil when they fall loose, allowing new roots to take hold and plants to grow.

For the seeds to do their job, they need to penetrate the dirt, so the sharp points have a barbed appearance.

You will also find bacteria made up of enzymes on the outside of the cluster. These break down into cellular matter when they contact the ground, once again allowing the seeds to take hold in the soil.

When foxtails can cause the most problems for dogs, the time of the year is during spring and summer. This is when the climate is drier, and the seeds start to fall loose in search of a place to penetrate the soil.

What Makes Foxtails in Dogs Dangerous?

foxtail seeds

When your dog comes in contact with a foxtail, the seeds can penetrate your dog and pose severe health threats. When foxtails are ingested, they can cause irritation, obstruction of the bowels, and blunt trauma.

The barbs mentioned above allow the clusters to stay attached while the enzymes will break down tissues.

Foxtails can penetrate externally and travel in the body of your dog and start to burrow the same way as they do with soil.

Foxtails can cause a dog to become very ill. Just how sick depends on the point of entry and how much damage is done before being discovered and removed.

Foxtails in Dogs – Where they Enter

foxtail in dog paw

Image Attribute: Suzanne Phillips

Foxtails can be inhaled and ingested through the mouth and nasal passages.  Other common ways into a dog’s body are through the paws, eyes, ears, and skin.

If you find a foxtail embedded in your dog, take it out immediately and thoroughly examine the area for seeds.

You may be able to remove seeds on your own, but a visit to the vet is the safest option, as just a few missed seeds can mean serious health issues for your dog.

Foxtails in Dogs – What to be On the Lookout For

Here are some signs that your dog may have picked up a foxtail:

  • Your dog is limping or chewing at paws
  • Your dog starts to sneeze and paw at their nostril, where blood may appear
  • Foxtail in the ears will lead your dog to shake their head, pawing at their ears and taking on a very stiff gait when they walk
  • If the eyes are affected, you will notice excess discharge, tears, and mucus
  • If a foxtail penetrates your dog’s mouth, be on the lookout for gagging and retching. They may also swallow repeatedly, stretch and scratch at their neck, and try to eat grass
  • Foxtails that enter other parts of the body may cause your dog to scratch, chew or lick. The area may become warm to the touch or swollen

If you spot any of the above signs and fear that a foxtail may be embedded inside their body, you need to see a vet immediately. Time is very much of the essence here.

Your vet can assess any foxtails that are not visible by sight using an x-ray machine or other imaging device. Once located, they will determine if the foxtail can be removed during the office visit or if surgery is required.

How to Avoid Foxtails on Your Dog

Learn what foxtails look like and where they are in places your dog could be exposed to them.

The safest solution is to avoid these areas. If you spot foxtails, the next best thing is to leash up your dog to prevent contact.

When camping, hiking your favorite trail or visiting a new area, thoroughly check your dog over if foxtails were anywhere in the vicinity.

Visually check ears, eyes, nose, inside mouth and gums, and in-between paw pads and toes. Use your hands to check neck, shoulders, legs, tails, belly, and don’t forget armpits and groin area.

We hope this article is informative and helpful in keeping your dog foxtail-free.

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