Dangers of Foxtails to Dogs

Exploring open fields might be incredibly fun for your dog. However, such places can pose very serious dangers because it is in such grassy areas where foxtail plants proliferate. Although they might seem harmless, foxtails can cause your dog anything from mild irritation to fatal conditions. So, whenever you take your dog outdoors, make sure you keep an eye out for these dangerous plants.

What are foxtails?

Foxtails are wild grasses that are named so because they grow clusters of seeds that resemble the fluffy tails of foxes. In contrast to their namesake, however, these seed structures are not soft to touch. As they dry up, their awns or barbs pierce through skin and embed painfully into anything it comes in contact with.

Why are foxtails dangerous for dogs?

Because the barbed seeds of foxtails attach and embed itself into anything it touches, they pose a serious danger to dogs. In some cases, they are not just painful but fatal. In particular, they can become embedded and cause severe problems in these parts:

1) Nose

Your dog can inhale grass awns when they sniff through vegetation. When this happens, the barbed seeds will not only irritate their nostrils but could also travel up to your dog’s brain or down to their lungs. That is a dangerous and potentially fatal condition.

2) Eye

An inhaled foxtail can find its way to your dog’s eyes. When this happens, it will not only cause serious nasal injuries but also blindness. Your dog can also pick up these grass seeds externally. If you happen to find a foxtail lodged very close to their eyes, make sure you remove it gingerly but promptly.

3) Feet

When your dog walks through grass, a foxtail seed could become lodged into their paw pads or between their toes. When this happens, you’ll need to remove it and help heal their paws. Otherwise, their feet might swell up and get infected. By then, you’ll need veterinary care right away to avoid further complications.

4) Genitals

When foxtails latch on to your dog’s genitals, it can be very irritating. Your dog will likely try to find relief by licking or aggressively nibbling on the area. That leads to further injury and increases the risk of infection, not only on their genitals but also their mouth.

5) Mouth

Licking and putting things in their mouths is perfectly normal dog behavior. However, these are also good ways to get foxtail seeds on their tongue, cheeks, and gums.

6) Ears

It’s also common for foxtails to get into the ears of dogs. Thankfully, it’s easy enough to spot and remove when it latches on just outside of your dog’s ears. However, they can sometimes get into the ear canal, which is when it could turn into a dangerous condition.

7) Skin

Foxtails can easily latch onto your dog’s skin. If they aren’t removed right away, they could cause severe irritation. Over time, it could also be the source of a serious infection.

Tips for Preventing Foxtail Problems

Don’t deprive your dog of their love for open fields just because of the presence of foxtails. Although these are potentially harmful, the world wouldn’t be much fun if you tried to avoid them altogether. Here are some things you can do to make sure these pesky things don’t cause any problems:

Observe for uncommon behaviors.
If you’ve been outside, pay attention to changes in your dog’s demeanor. Are they doing things they don’t normally do? Head tilting, excessive licking, sneezing, and limping are all common signs of foxtail irritation.

Examine your dog carefully.
Make a habit of inspecting your dog thoroughly after visiting open fields. Brush through your dog’s coat and examine their skin. Make sure you also check their paws, ears, and mouth. Doing this is especially important during foxtail season, which runs from late spring to early summer. In some areas, foxtails are also common hazards during the fall.

Remove visible foxtails.
Grass awns do not dislodge on their own and cause many serious issues when left untreated. Make sure you use tweezers so as not to cause injury to yourself as well.

Seek professional veterinary care.
If you can’t remove foxtails yourself because they are too deeply embedded or are somewhere you can’t access, take your dog to the vet immediately.

Familiarizing yourself with foxtails and where they might proliferate is critical if you take your dog outdoors. You should also check your dog’s body for awns on a regular basis, especially during foxtail season. If you suspect your dog has a foxtail seed that you can’t find or remove on your own, seek the help of a veterinarian as soon as possible.