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Why Foxtails are Dangerous to Dogs: A Comprehensive Guide for Dog Parents | Pupford

August 21st, 2023

Filed under Pet Parenting

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Safeguarding our furry companions from hidden perils in our surroundings is a top priority for us devoted dog parents. Amidst the numerous hazards, one particular menace demands our immediate attention: foxtails.

These tiny, yet treacherous, grass seed awns have the power to cause significant harm to our beloved canines when they become lodged in their bodies.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the reasons why foxtails pose a genuine risk to our furry friends and offer guidance on safeguarding them during the notorious foxtail season. Get ready to equip yourself with crucial knowledge to protect your four-legged companions.

Related: How to Puppy Proof Your House, Yard, Rooms & Car: 21 Essential Tips


foxtail grass

Foxtails are the seed awns of various types of grass commonly found in outdoor areas. These seemingly innocuous plants can pose a serious threat to our dogs' well-being. The barbed structure of foxtails allows them to penetrate the skin or enter various orifices, such as the nose, ears, eyes, or mouth, and then continue to migrate through the body.

This migration can lead to severe complications, including abscesses and infections. The sharp, pointed ends of foxtails make them difficult to remove and require surgical intervention in many cases.

Related: Dog First Aid: Basic Skills, Treatment, and First Aid Kits


Foxtails can enter a dog's body through multiple avenues, with some areas being more vulnerable than others. Dogs with long fur, curly fur, or long ears are particularly prone to foxtail-related issues. The following are common entry points and potential health risks associated with foxtails:

Nose and Nasal Passage

When dogs venture into outdoor areas, it is crucial to consider the potential risks associated with foxtails and take necessary precautions. Foxtails, being small seeds, can easily find their way into a dog's nasal passages, leading to subsequent migration to the sinuses or even the brain.

This migration can result in severe infections and neurological complications, posing a serious threat to a dog's health. Given dogs' innate curiosity and an acute sense of smell, it becomes imperative to remain extra vigilant against the possibility of foxtails entering their noses.


Dogs with long, floppy ears are susceptible to foxtail entry. The barbed awns can easily become lodged in the ear canal, causing pain, inflammation, and potential damage to the eardrum if not promptly addressed. To prevent foxtail entry in dogs with long, floppy ears, regular ear maintenance is essential. Dog parents should inspect and clean their dogs' ears regularly, paying attention to any signs of irritation or foreign objects.

Related: Dog Ear Care: Ear Types, Infections, and Dog Ear Cleaning at Home

be careful when letting your dog wander around foxtails


Foxtails can enter the eyes, causing irritation, redness, and, in severe cases, corneal ulcers. If you notice your dog pawing at their eyes or exhibiting signs of discomfort, it is crucial to seek veterinary attention.

Your veterinarian will examine your dog's eyes and may perform tests to locate and remove the foxtail if present. In some cases, sedation or anesthesia may be required to facilitate the examination and removal process.

It's important not to delay veterinary care because the longer a foxtail remains in the eye, the greater the risk of complications. Corneal ulcers caused by foxtails can lead to infection, vision loss, or even perforation of the eye in severe cases.


Dogs that like to explore the world through their mouths can accidentally ingest foxtails while sniffing or chewing on grass. Swallowed foxtails can cause gastrointestinal distress, including vomiting, diarrhea, and potential blockages if they become lodged in the digestive tract.

Related: How to Care for Your Dog’s Teeth + Dental Cost Breakdowns

The symptoms of gastrointestinal distress caused by ingested foxtails can vary depending on the severity of the situation. Mild cases may only result in temporary discomfort, while more severe cases can lead to persistent vomiting, bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain, lethargy, and loss of appetite.

If you suspect that your dog has ingested foxtails or is showing any signs of gastrointestinal distress, it is crucial to seek veterinary attention immediately.

Paws and Skin

Foxtails have a particular affinity for paws, especially between the toes. The barbed structure allows them to easily embed in the skin, leading to abscesses, swelling, and intense pain. Regular inspection and grooming of your dog's paws are essential during foxtail season.

When a foxtail becomes embedded in a dog's paw, it often leads to immediate swelling and tenderness. The affected area may become inflamed, making it painful for the dog to walk or put weight on the affected paw. This discomfort can be distressing for the dog, limiting their mobility and causing significant discomfort.

Related: Caring For Your Dog's Paw Pads: Moisturizing, Peeling & More

To mitigate the risks associated with foxtails, it is crucial to prioritize regular inspection and grooming of your dog's paws, especially during foxtail season when these troublesome weeds are most prevalent. Take the time to carefully examine the spaces between their toes, visually inspecting for any signs of foxtails or other foreign objects that may have become trapped.

If you notice any signs of foxtail penetration, such as swelling, redness, or discharge, it is essential to seek veterinary attention promptly.


foxtails are prevalent in regions with dry and arid climates

While the risks associated with foxtails are concerning, there are proactive steps you can take to safeguard your furry friend. By implementing the following safety tips and precautions, you can minimize the chances of foxtail-related incidents:

Stay Vigilant during Outdoor Activities

When venturing into areas where foxtails are prevalent, such as parks, hiking trails, or open fields, keep your dog on a leash and under close supervision. Avoid letting your dog wander into dense grassy areas where foxtails are more likely to be present.

Foxtails are more commonly found in regions with dry and arid climates, particularly in the western United States, including California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and Idaho. They thrive in areas such as open fields, grasslands, meadows, and roadsides, and are especially abundant in parks, farmlands, and uncultivated fields.

They also often be found along roadsides where there is tall grass or vegetation growing.

While their prevalence is higher in these regions, foxtails can also be found in other parts of the world. It's important to familiarize yourself with the local flora and consult with local veterinarians or pet parents to determine if foxtails are a concern in your specific area.

Thorough Post-Outdoor Inspections

After spending time outdoors, make it a habit to give your dog a thorough inspection. Brush their coat and run your hands all over their body, paying close attention to areas prone to foxtail entry, such as ears, paws, and under the collar. Use your fingers to part the fur and visually inspect for any signs of foxtails.

Check out Pupford’s Dog Grooming Tools for Home to help with these post-outdoor inspections. 

Regular Grooming

Keeping your dog's fur well-groomed can help reduce the chances of foxtail penetration. Trim long fur, especially around the ears, paws, and underbelly. Regular brushing not only prevents matting but also allows you to detect and remove any foxtails that may have become entangled in the fur.

Protective Gear

Consider using protective gear such as booties or socks to cover your dog's paws during walks in areas where foxtails are prevalent. These accessories can provide an additional barrier of protection against foxtail entry.

Prompt Veterinary Attention

If you suspect that your dog has come into contact with foxtails or is exhibiting signs of discomfort or distress, do not hesitate to seek immediate veterinary attention. A thorough examination by a professional can help identify and remove foxtails before they cause further harm.


By understanding how foxtails operate, recognizing common entry points, and implementing safety measures, we can protect our dogs from the harm caused by these grass seed awns. Stay attentive, conduct thorough post-outdoor inspections, and seek veterinary attention if necessary.

Let's ensure our furry friends enjoy a safe and worry-free environment during foxtail season.

Related: Plants That Are Toxic & Poisonous to Dogs: 15 Bad Plants + Safe Alternatives


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