Beware of Foxtails

Sunde White illustrates an essay about the danger of foxtails to dogs

The other foxtails

It’s foxtail season so I wanted to share with dog families how dangerous they are to them.  Foxtails are barbed clusters of grass that can enter the dog’s body through the nose, mouth, ear, eye or even the paws or skin. Because they are barbed, they move in one direction only, forward.  When they get into the blood stream they make their way to the lungs or brain, causing horrible pain, infection, seizures and death.

A dangerous foxtail

When dogs first get one, they will react very strongly.  If it’s in the ear, they will shake their head and paw at the ears.  If it’s in the nose they will violently start sneezing, wheezing, foaming and snorting non stop.   If it’s in the paw or skin they will be obsessively chewing or licking the area. The dog will be desperate to get it out of them so please go right to the vet.

A dog walker friend of mine always puts screened hoods on the dogs she walks to keep them safe from foxtails.  She says the dogs don’t care that they are wearing them at all and after a chicken treat or two they stick there heads right in them. You can find these hoods here:

Unfortunately though, one of her precious dogs died due to a foxtail he sniffed up during a walk with his owner.  He was horribly uncomfortable with all the symptoms, and was becoming alarmingly sick but the vet he took him to insisted there was no foxtail. They finally xrayed the dog and saw that the foxtail was lodged in the lung, causing internal bleeding and pneumonia.  They performed emergency surgery and thought the dog would get better when a blood clot got loose and killed the very good boy.

Stay safe out there!

Please, please, please be your dog’s advocate.  If you feel your dog was exposed to foxtails and is now having symptoms take your dog to a vet that will believe you and check to make sure the foxtail is removed promptly.


-Swelling between the toes, limping, or licking the foot

-Scratching, pawing at an ear and constant head shaking and tilting

-Pawing at an eye that is red, watery, swollen or has discharge

-Violent or constant sneezing, coughing, foamy mouth, nasal discharge, wheezing


-Sudden illness, lethargy, pneumonia


-Foxtail dog hood

-Cut back grass

-No hiking in trails with a lot of foxtails

-Check the dog for foxtails in fur before going home

Kiss your dog for me and have a wonderful summer.  If you’re in the SF/Pacifica area and you’d like my friend to take your dog on a fun and safe nature walk, safe from Foxtails, check out her website here: