Summer Dangers: Foxtails

By: DogTrekker Staff

Vet Buzz from Erin Troy, DVM, CCRP,
Muller Veterinary Hospital, Walnut Creek, CA

Dogs running in tall grass
Watch out for foxtails. Photo: Jon Hurd (CC)

The beautiful weather is upon us and we are all eager to be out and about with our canine companions. There are trails to be blazed and hills to be climbed and new adventures to be had by all. As you and your dog head out this season for fun and exercise please keep in mind there are hazards to be aware of around many corners. 

Foxtails are in their green state now but after a few more warm days they will begin to dry and really become a danger. Foxtail grass grows all over the greater Bay Area in the open spaces as well as along many trails. These ubiquitous seemingly innocent pieces of mother nature can be very dangerous to our dogs. They can penetrate their toes and migrate through the feet and legs. 

Signs include limping and licking at swelling between the toes or on top of the foot. Foxtails can also be sniffed into the nose causing violent and in some cases bloody sneezing. We have also found them in eyes and ears and penetrating through the skin anywhere on the body. They travel in one direction and have been found to migrate through the eardrum, into the lungs and even into the spinal cord with serious and potentially fatal results. Prevention is best and in reality this can only be done by avoiding high risk areas. 

Keep in mind that even areas where the grass has been cut can be a hazard because the foxtails are laying in wait on the ground for an unsuspecting dog to walk sniffing by. Staying on paved or cleared trails and not letting your dog off leash can be a good idea to limit the exposure.  Go over your dog thoroughly looking for any tag alongs in his coat or between his toes. If you have a medium or long haired dog this can be cumbersome to do. 

Some families choose to have their dog clipped short for the season to limit the chance for foxtails to be a problem. If you and your dog have been in a high risk area and he begins to sneeze hard or has a bloody nose or is shaking his head or licking a swelling on his feet, seek veterinary attention right away. These dangerous irritants can be hard to find and remove so the sooner they can be removed the less potential damage they can cause.


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