Why you must look out for foxtails on your dog

There are areas, particularly in the Western United States, where the grass-like weed known as the foxtail can be a big risk to dogs. Typically the risk for this plant is highest in open fields, and tends to be the highest risk to dogs from May through December. Once the barbed seed heads make their way into the skin of a dog, they become lodged and/or migrate into deeper areas of the body.

Symptoms seen in affected dogs will depend on which part of body the foxtail penetrates. Common areas include the area between the toes, ears, eyes, and even the groin areas near the vagina or penis. Severe inflammation will occur, leading to discharge, swelling, pain, heat, secondary infections, and even the development of abscesses around the foxtail. It is even possible for dogs to inhale the seeds, which may migrate into the lungs. Those lodged in the nostrils may even migrate into the brain.

Treatment of foxtail penetration include removing the barbed seed heads with tweezers if possible; however in those deeply embedded, sometimes veterinary surgical removal under sedation may be needed, along with systemic antibiotic therapy.

The best prevention for these problems include keeping dogs out of overgrown grassy areas during the above season, as well as keeping hair trimmed, as foxtails are often very difficult to find in those pets with thick or long hair coats.