The Foxtail And The Hound

By: Pam Wiese Email
By: Pam Wiese Email

Foxtails aren't just a pesky weed, they can cause big problems for pets.

A sporting dog recently had a hot spot he kept licking and licking. They couldn't figure out what the problem was. One day the dog was very lethargic and the spot had pus and was infected, so he was taken to a vet who found a very small grass seed, something not many people know can be dangerous to dogs.

Foxtails are a grass-like weed found in ditches and open fields across Nebraska and the western United States. The problem is these tough seeds, when dry, are hard to find in a dog’s fur. The barb seed heads of the foxtail can work its way into any part of a dog or cat, from the nose to between the toes, inside the ears and even the mouth.

Since they don't break down inside the body, an embedded foxtail can migrate anywhere and can lead to serious infection and complications. Embedded foxtails can cause discharge, abscesses, swelling and pain.

If your dog is displaying any of the following symptoms, check for foxtails or talk to a veterinarian. They love dog's feet and can easily become embedded between tender toes. If your pooch is shaking his or her head, tilting it to the side or scratching incessantly at an ear, this could also be the sign of a foxtail.

Redness, discharge, swelling, squinting and pawing at may all be signs your dog has a foxtail lodged in an eye. If you think this may be the case, seek veterinarian care immediately. If you see any discharge from the nose or if your dog is sneezing frequently and intensely, there could be a foxtail lodged in the nasal passage.

Any pet can pick these up, but those with long ears and curly hair can be especially prone to foxtail problems. So examine your pets’ coat during foxtail season, which runs from May to December, especially if you're walking through open fields.

Brush your dog as necessary, looking closely for pointy foxtails awns in your dog’s hair. Check your pups’ paw pads, face and ears carefully and don't forget to look around your pooches’ mouth and gums. Foxtails don't come out on their own and they can burrow just about anywhere into your dog's body. If you suspect your dog has one, the best thing to do is to take your dog to a veterinarian to see if they can remove it.

The Nebraska Humane Society at 8929 Fort Street in Omaha is open weekends from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and weekdays 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. You can always look up animals and find information at

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