Why Foxtails Are Dangerous For Your Pet

One of the most common cases seen in veterinary medicine during warmer months are Foxtail Foreign Bodies. Foxtails are the common name for spiked seeds that dry out as the weather heats up.

Foxtail Seed








What Are Foxtails?

Foxtails are spiked seeds often found in dried, wild grasses. These seeds are particularly dangerous during summer and fall when the plants are dried out and the seeds harden.

Why Are They Dangerous?

When they dry out, they can enter the body and migrate into tissues and vital organs, causing infection or abscesses. This can happen from dogs or cats getting into bushes or tall grass, hiking on trails, or sniffing near dried grass. If left untreated, an infection or internal injuries caused by foxtails can progress quickly and be fatal. 

Where To Check Your Pet For Foxtails

The most common entry points for foxtail seeds:

  • Eyes & Ears
  • Nose
  • Paws
  • Genitalia

Clinical Signs of Foxtail Foreign Bodies

If entered through the nose or throat:

  • Sneezing
  • Snorting
  • Nasal discharge
  • Shaking of the head
  • Head tilt
  • Pawing at the face
  • Gagging

If entered or embedded in the paw:

  • Limping
  • Excessive licking
  • Discomfort when limp is touched

If entered through the eyes/ears:

  • Eye discharge
  • Pawing at the face/ears
  • Head tilt
  • Abnormal posture

Foxtail Foreign Body Prevention

  • Pets with longer coats are more prone to picking up foxtails. Consider a short haircut in the summer months when they spend more time outdoors.
  • Working dogs who spend a lot of time outdoors or on pastures can be fitted for a commercial protective vest.
  • Use a short leash on walks and hikes in wooded or heavily-planted areas.
  • Remove any plants with spiked seeds from your yard.

If you notice any signs of discomfort or infection, contact your vet immediately!