image of foxtails in field

Beware of Foxtails

Foxtails… those pesky little things.  It used to just be the western states that had to deal with foxtails, but this invasive plant is now found across the country. In summer months, they seem to be everywhere, and unfortunately, they can be very dangerous and even deadly for your dog.  

Foxtails are a type of grassy weed that spouts up in open fields, parks, backyards and even the cracks in sidewalks. They are v-shaped and once they grab hold of something, they are very hard to get out. In fact, they don’t just hang on, they migrate forward. So, if they get into your dog’s skin, they just keep moving and they break off if you try to pull them.  

If a dog swallows a foxtail, which could happen inadvertently when grooming himself, a foxtail could find its way and lodge itself into the throat, the stomach lining or intestinal tract and require surgery to remove. They can also cause skin infections, lung cavity infections or lung abscesses.

Foxtails are a dog’s nemesis.  So what can you do to protect your dog?  The first step is to be able to identify what a foxtail is. Not all foxtails look alike, but they do all share the same pointy little V-shape with thin grassy spires. They can be green or brown and they can range in size. 

If you have foxtails growing in your yard, cut them down and get rid of the trimmings. It’s often the foxtails that are left after being cut down that find their way onto your dog’s coat. 

When you go for a walk, watch each step your dog takes and avoid areas where you know foxtails are present. If you see a foxtail get picked up by your dog’s coat, immediately remove it. Don’t wait until you get home.

When you return from your walk, thoroughly examine your dog’s coat. If your dog has long hair, it can be more difficult to find them, but feel around to see if you notice anything stuck in between hairs. Ideally, brush your dog each time you come indoors. Be sure to check in between the pads, around the groin area, the ears, chest and face.  

Foxtails migrate up the vulva, penis, anus, into the ear canal, eyes, nose, the chest wall… you name it. They are bad news. Some dogs require multiple surgeries to remove foxtails that have invaded the body. Invasions can lead to serious infections and even death. Foxtails are a serious threat, so be sure to do all you can to prevent them taking hold on your dog.

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