Foxtail Grass Can Kill Your Dogs What dog doesn’t enjoy running through a field of grass? However, you should be aware that there are some wild grasses that are dangerous for your dog. Foxtail grass is one of these. They have sharp seeds that can be extremely detrimental for dogs. They are designed to burrow into the ground with seed. However, they can also get into a dog’s skin where they can cause serious injury, infection and even death. The torpedo-shaped awns found on foxtails are similar to bullets, as they can penetrate any part of a dog’s body. These often can get lodged in a dog’s nose, ears, underbelly, rear end and paws. Dogs with long hair are particularly at risk, as the barbs get attached to the long fur and they are difficult to locate.

How to Identify Foxtail Grass

Found primarily on wild barley grasses, foxtails can be recognized by the hairlike needles that look like a fox’s tail. They have also been named “spear grass.” Foxtail grass often shows up like a weed in certain areas. They can be found on the side of the road, landfills, fence rows, open fields, mountain trails, vacant lots, and occasionally on lawns. Found all over the world, you will find a lot of foxtail grass in the Western and Southern United States, with a majority found in California. If a foxtail becomes lodged in your dog’s skin, you should take your dog to the vet to make sure the entire awn is removed. This is important because once a foxtail awn goes through your dog, it will not disintegrate and it will move through the tissue and organs. When a foxtail gets in a dog’s ear, it can pierce the eardrum. If it gets in a paw, it can cut it and move into the limb itself. If it gets into the nose and mouth, they can make their way towards the lungs. The awns contain bacteria which may cause an infection and abscesses to form. This is why in order to remove a foxtail, there almost always needs to be an anesthetic and surgery performed by a veterinarian. In order to determine whether a dog has a foxtail, there are symptoms which you should look out for. To begin with, the dog may start to sneeze a lot and paw at the area. At times, the foxtail may not be seen, where at other times you will be able to see it.

Symptoms of a foxtail wound include:

  • A foxtail may be in the nose if he sneezes excessively.
  • A lump on the skin that hurts them when you touch it
  • A foxtail awn may be in the ear if he shakes his head violently.
  • If your dog is pawing at their eye they may have a foxtail awn in it.
  • A puss discharge from an area on the skin
  • A visible abscess
  • A bacterial infection
The best way to protect your dog is to stay out of areas that may contain foxtails. It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with what it looks like. If you have them in your yard, mow them and then rake and throw away the little spikes. If you have taken your dog to a place where there is foxtail grass, be sure to thoroughly check the dog for foxtail needles. Check well between the toes, around the ears, eyes, nose and underbelly.  

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