Foxtails: Enemy Of The State (Of Dogs)

foxtail3Pet Connection warns dog parents of the dangers of the little plants known of foxtails:

They plot and plan how best to drive themselves into our dogs’ tender flesh, to slip between the toe and the nail, to be snorted into the vulnerable nasal passages, to work their way into the ear canal.

…take this warning seriously: watch out for foxtails. Eradicate them from your property, and watch for them when walking them in parks, wildlands, pasture, or field.

California’s foxtail season lasts until fall. Signs of foxtail attack include sudden “licking at a toe, pawing at their ears, or has a lump or swelling anywhere.” Pet Connection advises you to check your dogs frequently for foxtails.

Learn more about the foxtail hazard and how to spot them.

A serious hazard for field dogs, or any dogs in the field, are the hard seed-bearing structures of some kinds of grasses, often called “foxtails”. These structures have sharp points at one end, and microscopic barbs, so that they easily move in the direction of the point, but not the other way. They “work in”, but they don’t “work out”. They can become imbedded (sic) in the hair, especially the paws and ears, and in nostrils and even eyes. As they work their way in, they cause infection, and if not treated can sometimes be fatal.

10 Responses to “Foxtails: Enemy Of The State (Of Dogs)”

  1. purringfur says:

    Is it just me? I’m not able to load the page from this link titled:

    “Learn more about the foxtail hazard and how to spot them.”

    ITCHMO ADMIN: Fixed. Thanks.

  2. JJ says:

    Not just you purringfur. I just tried and link is not working. If anyone later on gets on let us know link is working.

  3. moneysmith says:

    I just happened to read this suggestion in Let’s Live magazine (April 2007) in a column by Stephen Blake, a vet who specializes in alternative medicine. He suggests carrying almond oil with you when taking your dog into an area where there are foxtails. If your dog gets one in an ear, fill the ear canal with almond oil and massage gently. This softens the foxtail and makes it less likely to get stuck in the ear. You will still have to have a vet remove the foxtail, but it’s not something that has to be done on an emergency basis. Almond oil is inexpensive (at least compared to a trip to 24-hour emergency vet) and you can buy it online or at places like Whole Foods.

  4. purringfur says:

    Thank you, Itchmo! Love you.

  5. AZSue says:

    Back in the late ’70s, my cat, Humphrey Bogart, got a foxtail in his right eye. It worked its way all the way to the back of his eye and had to be surgically removed. That is back when I thought it was okay to let my cats wander around outside…I have since changed my outlook on this and now they have a cat run to let them get fresh air but at the same time keep them safe. And…my vet bills are almost nonexistant now since they don’t get into situations that causes vet visits!


  6. DW says:

    We lost a young, healthy dog to foxtails. We lived in a suburb of Denver then. The foxtail went into his abdominal cavity and caused a massive infection. He never showed a sign of external infection. Never saw a hole where the foxtail penetrated and he was extremely short coated so we would have seen it if it had showed. He went off his feed. We took him to the vet and had blood work done which showed a slight infection. Had him on antibiotics and after that he got worse. Took him in for x-rays and he died on the table. (We had waited too long …thought the heat was getting to him. That was a bad year, had high temperatures, smoke and flakes of ash from forest fires drifting into our yard.)

    If you have those cursed things in your yard, dig them out by hand when you first see the foxtail emerging. Each year, fewer of them will come of and you’ll defeat them without poison. (We’ve moved and now we’ve got a small acreage full of foxtails, but I’ve beaten them back out of the areas the dogs stay in. Bit by bit, I’ll keep pulling them up until they are all gone. Even if you don’t have time to tackle them all at once, just pull up a couple every time you walk out.)

  7. Michael S. says:

    Isn’t there a plant similar to these Foxtails that isn’t dangerous?

    Around here (Northern Virginia) we get plants that look very similar to Foxtails and they grow during the summer and fall. The cats love to play with them and eat the leaves growing off them. People around here call them cattails but that’s not what they are, they look almost exactly like these Foxtails. They don’t have any sharp points on them, even when they dry. We never could figure out what they are, we figured they were some sort of wild wheat.

    Does anyone know what they might be?

  8. furmom says:

    We have tons of them growing in almost every field along most roadsides outside of town. They look like ordinary grass in the spring, but go golden and harder later in summer. When the mature seeds come off the stem they look like V shaped spears, very sharp, very nasty. Around here they are called Spear Grass. They keep the vets in business.

  9. e wem says:

    This looks like half the grasses in my property. Thanks foir the information. I will definitely search and destroy

  10. Barb says:

    My dog is a malamute and she had been romping in an area where ticks and foxtail were prevalent. I took her to a vet and thought it could be a foxtail barb and he suggested antibiotics for a week and if that doesn’t make it better, a $700.00 surgery. I got a second opinion and this vet does not think it is foxtail because he said the hole would not cover over, that it would weep. Does anyone have experience with this?

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