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The Dangers of Foxtails and Your Pet

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The Dangers of Foxtails and Your Pet

Foxtails -A foxtail is a spikelet or spikelet cluster of a grass, that serves to disperse its seeds as a unit. Thus the foxtail is a type of diaspore or “plant dispersal unit”. Some grasses that produce a foxtail are themselves called “foxtail“, also “spear grass”. – wikipedia

These “foxtail like” weed clusters have barbs that when disturbed, fall and work their way into the ground making it hard for the cluster to come loose from the dirt. The outside part of the cluster also harbors bacteria composed of enzymes that break down cellular matter. 

The danger of Foxtails (grass awns) in regards to your pets is that this invasive weed commonly embeds in the skin, ears, eyes, underbelly, paws, nose, virtually anywhere on your pet.

A Foxtail in a dog’s ear can perforate their eardrum. It can lacerate a paw pad and travel into the limb. They may also get lodged in the throat, particularly behind the tonsils causing great distress and even infection. Once in a dog’s nose or mouth a foxtail can even migrate towards the lungs, other internal organs and their brain! The bacterial enzymes will cause the animal’s hair and tissues to break down causing infection and abscess. Veterinary procedures including surgery is often necessary to remove a fully imbedded Foxtail.

How to Prevent Foxtails from Hurting Your Pet

Prevention is the best course of action. Foxtails typically grow at roadsides, fence rows, open fields, mountain trails, vacant lots and sometimes lawns. Know what the many varieties of Foxtails look like (google foxtails) and avoid them when walking your dog.
Depending on the color or length of your dog or cat’s fur Foxtails can be difficult to spot so do a thorough check of your pet’s fur and pay close attention to ears, nose, underarms, under their collar and between paw pads after outings.

If you find a Foxtail already beginning to imbed in your pet, seek veterinary care immediately.


Terie Hansen is the Owner of Good Dog! Coaching & Pet Care. More information at 

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