Thursday, May 29, 2014

PET PROTECTION: Foxtails: A Hidden Danger and a Trip to the Vet

Most of the time I write about my family's adventures having fun and doing things together.  One my family members that doesn't get a lot of mention but almost always comes with us is our dog Brittany.  

We consider her an important member of our family.  She protects us, goes camping, hunting, plays and gives us comfort.  We would do anything for her as she clearly does all she can for us.

Last week, I had to rush her to the vet because of a hazard that I had never given much thought about before.  Our backyard grass doesn't always have the weed control that it needs and a certain weed was taking over our little used side yard.

We had just gotten back from a weekend away and we noticed that she was chewing her feet and licking one paw excessively.  On further examination, I saw a puncture wound, redness and swelling.  The weed responsible is the common foxtail.  I checked out the rest of her body and removed about 10 foxtails.  I immediately made an appointment with our vet to remove the burrowed fox-tail from her foot.

$200 later, we discovered that she had about 20 more that we had not found and were removed.  Her wound was flushed and another was found in her ear that was causing an ear infection that we weren't even aware of yet!

The foxtail is that pesky poky plant that sticks in our socks and makes us itch.  To us it is a bothersome plant but to dogs, it can be deadly.  The foxtail gathers in between long haired dog's toes and buries itself into the skin, often without the owners knowing.  They often get inhaled by dogs through the nose or mouth and this is where it can become deadly.

The foxtail when inhaled, can burrow its way into the brain, lungs and other organs causing pain and infections.


  • Western US
    • Eyes
    • Ears
    • Nose
    • Pads of feet
    • Genitals 
  • May thru December
  • Feet: Foxtails love your dog's feet and can easily become embedded between tender toes. Check for foxtails if you notice swelling or limping or if your dog is constantly licking the area.
  • Ears: If your pooch is shaking his head, tilting it to the side, or scratching incessantly at an ear, this could be the sign of a foxtail -- one that may be so deep inside the ear canal you can't see it. Your veterinarian needs to take a look using a special scope.
  • Eyes: Redness, discharge, swelling, squinting, and pawing all may be signs your dog has a foxtail lodged in its eye. If you think this may be the case, seek veterinary care immediately.
  • Nose: If you see discharge from the nose, or if your dog is sneezing frequently and intensely, there may be a foxtail lodged in a nasal passage.
  • Genitals: Foxtails can find their way into these areas, too. So if you notice your dog persistently licking at its genitals, foxtails could be the cause.
  • When hiking, during the drier months, keep dogs on a leash so they don't run through the weeds/brush
  • Keep weeds removed in your own backyard.  They grow side by side in the grass.
  • Always check your dogs thoroughly after hiking
  • Regularly brush out your dogs coat
  • Keep long haired dogs trimmed short, especially between the toes
I hope that this helps prevent other dogs from pain and misery!  I also hope that it helps other dog owners so you don't have the added expense of a vet bill.

1 comment:

  1. Great information to share! I'm neurotic about foxtails and my poodle has velcro hair that they just love to stick to....

    Hope your pups paw is healing up well.


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