Protect Your Pet From the Dangers of Foxtails

Closeup of Caucasian Hand in FoxtailsWalking your dog is one of life’s greatest pleasures – until he or she unexpectedly runs through a patch of foxtails. Unfortunately, California foxtails don’t just clump together in small, avoidable pockets. Foxtails seem to be everywhere. From rolling hillsides to mountain trails, the dangers of foxtails should not be underestimated.

Your Worst Nightmare

Why are foxtails so bad? For starters, they’re a member of a group of grasses with needle-like seed heads, commonly referred to as wild barley and ripgut brome. Incredibly resilient, foxtails remain standing even when dry and brittle. This also happens to be the time when they pose the most danger to your pet.

Off With Awns

The dangers of foxtails result from the production of awns (the needle-like tips of the grass). Constructed to drill into soil as a means of self-propagation, awns can actually latch onto your pet’s fur and burrow into the paws, tail, armpits, nose, mouth, ears, and eyes. Your dog could even swallow foxtails, causing pain and leading to emergency care.

The Time of Year

Late spring usually sees a rise in the danger of foxtails while summer typically represents the peak. Foxtails don’t break down; if embedded in your pet’s skin, the awn will continue to move through the body. Although a foxtail could pop out on its own, it’s more common for a foxtail to cause serious damage and suffering.

Seeing the Signs

If your pet is constantly sneezing, you may start to wonder about seasonal allergies. However, if the following symptoms are also present, it’s best to get your pet looked at right away:

  • Compulsive licking or scratching in a certain area
  • Head shaking
  • Limping
  • Discharge or odor from the eyes or ears
  • Gagging or unproductive coughing
  • Irritated eyes
  • Bloody nose

During a wellness visit, we can make a conclusive diagnosis through digital x-ray or ultrasound. Sometimes, surgery may be necessary to remove a foxtail. Other dangers include painful abscesses and infections.

Combating the Dangers of Foxtails

To help prevent contact with foxtails, get your pet a nice trim this summer to keep awns from attaching to the areas we listed above. Also be sure to inspect your pet’s coat and body after every outing.  

If there are foxtails on your property, we recommend mowing them down, fully removing them from your yard, and placing them in your green waste bin.

We’re Here to Help

Please contact us if you need assistance regarding the dangers of foxtails. We want you and your pet to enjoy the summer, so please be on the lookout out for these troublesome grasses.