Why Are Foxtails Dangerous to Dogs?

Have you ever heard of foxtails? Even if you haven’t heard them called by this term, you’ve probably seen them. Foxtails are a type of long grass that often grows alongside roads or in fields that aren’t regularly maintained. It grows tall and has long, brown, feathery cones on the ends of each individual stalk.

The cones on the ends of foxtails contain spiky seeds which the plant releases in order to propagate. Sometimes, animals can pick up these seeds when they walk by, and this is where dogs come in. But how can a seed be dangerous to a dog? Read on to find out more. If you have any questions, call Antioch Veterinary Hospital at (925) 7572800.

foxtails in antioch, ca

Issues with Foxtails


Foxtails are designed to move forward because of their spiked design. This helps them when they are out in nature trying to spread, but it can be very dangerous to your dog. The traveling nature means that they can also travel through your dog’s body or bloodstream and eventually reach the brain, heart, lungs, or other vital organs.


The other concern when it comes to foxtails is infection. A dog’s body cannot break down these seeds, so they remain in the body and quickly lead to infection. They can also cause abscesses if left untreated for a time.

Symptoms of Foxtails


Limping may mean that your dog has a foxtail in their paw pad or embedded between its toes. Check their feet and legs carefully to see if they have a foxtail there, and don’t forget to look between their legs and the rest of their body for foxtails you might not be able to see.

Watery Eyes

If your dog gets a foxtail stuck in their eye, it will likely cause a lot of pain. Their eye may turn red, and they may have very watery eyes because of this too. You may be able to see the foxtail, but even if so, take them to the vet for this problem. Removing the foxtail yourself could cause more damage.

Head Tilt

A sudden onset of head tilt after your dog has been outside, especially in areas you know are prone to foxtails, can mean that your dog has a foxtail in their ear. If you notice this occurring, check your dog’s ears carefully and remove any foxtails you can visibly see. If you can’t see them, you will need to take them to the vet to find out what the cause of the head tilt is for sure.

Severe, Sudden Sneezing

After being outdoors, many dogs develop some sneezing when they get back inside. This is common in dogs with allergies to pollen. However, if your dog has been around foxtails and suddenly begins sneezing severely, this can mean a foxtail has gone up their nose. Take them to the vet immediately, as foxtails can travel to the brain easily from this position.

Licking the Genitals

Foxtails may become stuck in or around a dog’s genitals, anus, or urethra. If your dog is licking these areas frequently after time outside, check carefully and take them to the vet if it is necessary.

Treatments for Your Dog if They Come in Contact with Foxtails

Check Early and Often

While your dog is outside, you should check them periodically for foxtails that might be stuck in their fur or on the surface of their skin. Check them more than once after coming back inside from spending time in areas with foxtails, too.

Don’t Neglect the Hidden Areas

Be sure to check your dog’s mouth and gums, ears, toes and spaces between their toes, and genital area for signs of foxtails. These are the parts of their body that often go unnoticed for longer, so it’s important to pay attention to these areas when you’re concerned about the risk of foxtails.

Use Tweezers to Remove Visible Foxtails

If you see visible foxtails that are embedded any deeper than in your dog’s fur, use tweezers to take them out. They should let go of their skin fairly easily when you do this, and you should then wash the area with soap and warm water after removing them.

Go to the Vet

If you can’t remove the foxtail, or if you are fairly sure your dog has a foxtail but you can’t see it, take them to the vet right away.

Keep your Dog Safe by Noticing Where Foxtails are Located

As you can see, it’s important to pay close attention to foxtails if you live in a region where they are present. They can commonly cause health problems for dogs, so you should be well aware of your dog when walking in areas with foxtails. Always check your dog closely after spending time outdoors and remove any foxtails you find immediately.

Learn how to recognize the signs of health problems related to foxtails and take your dog to their veterinarian in Antioch immediately if you think this might be what’s going on. Call us at (925) 7572800.