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Dangers of Foxtails from our Braselton Veterinarian

Foxtails are a type of grass that can actually be deadly to your dog – something most owners do not realize. The seed clusters produced by foxtails tend to get caught in the fur of dogs, and can work their way into the dog’s skin, nose, ears and more. The foxtail can burrow all the way into your dog’s flesh, and even make their way into the brain, heart and lungs. As your Braselton veterinarian, we want you to be aware of the dangers foxtails pose, and keep a lookout for symptoms of foxtail problems from your dog. We are your source for animal emergency care.


The Foxtail

Foxtails are easy to identify, because they look like their name. Fanning out like a fluffy fox’s tail, the wild grass is found mostly in the western U.S. – but it has been spreading. There are several kinds of grass which are called foxtail due to the way they look. Regardless of the specific grass, the most important thing for dog owners to know is to keep dogs away from foxtail grasses.

Foxtails can be found growing in most areas where grasses do well, including trails, parks, roadsides, flatlands, prairies, etc.

The seed is what appears to look like a foxtail, and it is what presents the real danger. As it dries, it becomes hard and develops barbs designed to burrow down into the soil. These barbs catch on pet fur, and even in pet skin, and burrow in much the same way they would in soil – except they are burrowing into your dog.

The Danger to Your Dog

Foxtails collect on your dogs fur, in-between the toes, on or in the nose and ears, and even in the mouth and throat. Sometimes if the foxtail is only in the fur, it will fall out eventually. But that is not always the case. The barbs are designed to move the plant forward, never backward. So each time the seed – also known as an awn – is agitated, it advances.

If the awn is in the dog’s orifices, the problem is obvious. It will continue to travel up the nose, ear, throat, etc., causing real trouble. But the awn can also advance through fur and into the skin. Awns have been found deep inside of dogs, having traveled through the dog’s skin and into the body.

Foxtails can also carry bacteria, which leads to infection as the awn makes its way into the flesh of your dog. Once foxtails enter your pet’s body, they must be removed by your vet.

Protecting Your Dog From Foxtails

The best way to protect your dog from foxtails is to avoid areas where they grow, particularly in the seasons when the seeds are drying out and falling off of the plant. In most dryer climates the foxtail will mature and start dropping seeds in the summertime, although the maturation period can vary based on the region. If you do suspect foxtails are causing your dog discomfort, come to our Braselton veterinarian office immediately.

Even if you do not see foxtails, though, they still may be around. It is a good idea to check your dog over fully after each walk to spot any foxtails in the fur, paws, ears, eyes, mouth, nose or other orifices. Symptoms of foxtails bothering your dog include:

  • Excessive shaking of the ears
  • Repeated sneezing, or blood coming out of the nose
  • Coughing or hacking that does not stop
  • Licking paws repeatedly

Schedule an Appointment with your Braselton Veterinarian

If you think that your dog has been in foxtails and is having difficulties due to the awns, it is important that you seek veterinary care right away. Our animal emergency care center is equipped to deal with foxtails, so please contact us immediately at (470) 209-7222 to talk to our Braselton Veterinarian about your dog.