Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Pet-Owners: Watch Out for Foxtail Seed Pods That Can Harm Your Dog or Cat This Summer
gvw_ap_news
By Associated Press
Published 2 weeks ago on
May 11, 2024

Learn about the dangers of foxtail seed pods to pets, how to recognize symptoms, and preventive measures to keep your furry friends safe this summer. (GV Wire Composite/David Rodriguez)

Share

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Across much of the United States, spring is in full force. With warmer weather, people are taking their furry family members out on longer walks and spending more time outside. Alongside blooming flowers and trees, your pet might run into a small, unassuming grass seed pod known as a foxtail. Despite the cute name, foxtails can pose a major threat to your pet’s health.

I am a veterinarian in California’s Central Valley, and foxtails are a daily issue where I work, especially during the spring and summer months.

Understanding Foxtails

A foxtail isn’t a specific plant. It is a type of grass seed pod that resembles a fox’s tail. Multiple species of grass can create this type of seed pod, and foxtails are found across much of the United States. Regions of the western U.S., especially California, have the most foxtails.

The outside of the foxtail is covered in small sticky hairs designed to stick to things. You can feel them yourself if you pull a foxtail off a plant. Rub your fingers against the seed one way, and then the other, and you’ll feel that one direction is smooth and the other direction is sticky.

Foxtails aren’t a big deal for people, as we don’t have a lot of hair and tend to remove things that are itchy or painful, but it’s a different story for pets.

A segment of the foxtail pod sticks to an animal’s fur, where it’s carried around until it eventually drops off and grows into grass. This sticky feature is great for the grass, as it helps spread the seeds around, but it also results in foxtail segments getting stuck to pets.

Once on the cat or dog, a segment of a foxtail can burrow into the skin, get stuck in the eyes, creep into ears, be inhaled into the nose, or even make its way into the lungs.

The Health Dangers of Foxtails

The most common place where foxtails will burrow into a pet is the skin, especially in between dogs’ toes. A foxtail embedded into the skin can cause irritation, redness, pain and infection. As the foxtail gets deeper into the skin, it brings harmful bacteria with it and creates a path of infection known as a draining tract.

If a foxtail makes it into a dog’s or a cat’s ear, the pet will likely start shaking its head back and forth – it might look like it has an ear infection. The embedded foxtail can cause discomfort and sometimes infection.

A foxtail can stick to a pet’s eye tissues, especially in cats, and migrate around the outer portions of the eye or behind the third eyelid, which is the protective tissue near the inner corner of their eye. This will cause discharge from the eye and discomfort and may scratch the eye’s surface.

One of the most serious locations for a foxtail is in the lungs. Dogs may inhale foxtails while running through fields and breathing hard. The foxtail can sometimes get stuck in the nose, which will cause the pet to sneeze and look uncomfortable. Occasionally, a piece of a foxtail makes its way into the lungs, which can result in severe infection, trauma and even death. Surgery and hospitalization are almost always required in these cases.

Recognizing Foxtail Symptoms

Pet owners can learn what symptoms to look out for in order to make sure their pet gets prompt care if they end up with a foxtail embedded somewhere.

If you see your dog or cat chewing on their paws, this might indicate that a foxtail has ended up in between the toes. Their paws may swell or grow red. If you see even a small pimplelike swelling in between your pet’s toes, they may have a foxtail stuck in their paw.

If your pet is frequently shaking its head, this can indicate that a foxtail made its way into the ear canal. Drainage or discharge from the eye can indicate that foxtail may have made its way around the eye. Sneezing or pawing at the nose can mean the foxtail may have made its way into the nose. Foxtails in the ear canal, eyes or nose will need to be removed by a veterinarian.

Coughing or hacking might mean a foxtail has made it to the tissues around the throat or the tonsils, or even deeper into the lungs. Each one of these symptoms requires care from a veterinarian, as they can grow serious if left untreated.

Preventing Foxtail Risks

Foxtails are everywhere in the environment, but there are some preventive steps pet owners can take to minimize the risks to their pets.

If you have foxtails in your yard, you can remove them. Sometimes you can get rid of foxtails permanently, but this isn’t always easy, as grasses are particularly good at reproducing and growing quickly.

Some locations have very few foxtails, while others have lots. Bring your pet to areas with fewer foxtails, if possible.

Some companies make mesh nets that can cover a dog’s head to prevent exposure to the ears, nose, eyes and mouth. Pet boots can prevent foxtails from getting stuck in their paws.

Grooming your pet regularly may help catch foxtails before they burrow into the skin. Removing mats and unkempt fur can also help reduce the risk. If you get your pet examined at the vet at least once a year, the veterinarian may be able to find foxtails during these checkups before they escalate into a larger problem.

Foxtails are part of living in the United States. But a few simple steps can help keep pets safe while they enjoy the outdoors.

RELATED TOPICS:

DON'T MISS

Trump Prosecutor Emphasizes ‘Cover-Up’ in Closing Arguments; Defense Targets Key Witness

DON'T MISS

Clovis Detectives Quickly Arrest Suspects in Construction Equipment Theft at Church

DON'T MISS

Fresno ‘Flirts’ with Hot Weather. When Will Triple Digits Arrive?

DON'T MISS

Albert Ruddy, Oscar-Winning Producer of ‘the Godfather’ and ‘Million Dollar Baby,’ Dies at 94

DON'T MISS

Who Bears Some Blame for High CA Gas Prices? Look in the Mirror

DON'T MISS

Israeli Strikes Kill 37 Palestinians Near Gaza’s Rafah as Offensive Expands

DON'T MISS

Former ‘General Hospital’ Actor Johnny Wactor Killed by Catalytic Converter Thieves

DON'T MISS

UC Workers’ Strike Spreads to UCLA & UC Davis Amid Free Speech Controversy

DON'T MISS

Celtics Look to Capture Championship, End 16-Year Drought

DON'T MISS

Not Even ‘Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga’ Saves Hollywood From a Terrible Memorial Day Weekend

UP NEXT

Albert Ruddy, Oscar-Winning Producer of ‘the Godfather’ and ‘Million Dollar Baby,’ Dies at 94

UP NEXT

Who Bears Some Blame for High CA Gas Prices? Look in the Mirror

UP NEXT

Israeli Strikes Kill 37 Palestinians Near Gaza’s Rafah as Offensive Expands

UP NEXT

Former ‘General Hospital’ Actor Johnny Wactor Killed by Catalytic Converter Thieves

UP NEXT

UC Workers’ Strike Spreads to UCLA & UC Davis Amid Free Speech Controversy

UP NEXT

Celtics Look to Capture Championship, End 16-Year Drought

UP NEXT

Not Even ‘Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga’ Saves Hollywood From a Terrible Memorial Day Weekend

UP NEXT

Melinda French Gates Pledges $1B for Women’s Rights Over 2 Years

UP NEXT

Supreme Court Leaves Avenatti’s Conviction in Place for Plotting to Extort $25M From Nike

UP NEXT

Popular California Beach Closed After Shark Bumped Surfer off His Board

Albert Ruddy, Oscar-Winning Producer of ‘the Godfather’ and ‘Million Dollar Baby,’ Dies at 94

50 mins ago

Who Bears Some Blame for High CA Gas Prices? Look in the Mirror

56 mins ago

Israeli Strikes Kill 37 Palestinians Near Gaza’s Rafah as Offensive Expands

1 hour ago

Former ‘General Hospital’ Actor Johnny Wactor Killed by Catalytic Converter Thieves

2 hours ago

UC Workers’ Strike Spreads to UCLA & UC Davis Amid Free Speech Controversy

3 hours ago

Celtics Look to Capture Championship, End 16-Year Drought

3 hours ago

Not Even ‘Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga’ Saves Hollywood From a Terrible Memorial Day Weekend

3 hours ago

Melinda French Gates Pledges $1B for Women’s Rights Over 2 Years

3 hours ago

Supreme Court Leaves Avenatti’s Conviction in Place for Plotting to Extort $25M From Nike

4 hours ago

Popular California Beach Closed After Shark Bumped Surfer off His Board

4 hours ago

Trump Prosecutor Emphasizes ‘Cover-Up’ in Closing Arguments; Defense Targets Key Witness

NEW YORK — Donald Trump engaged in “a conspiracy and a cover-up,” a prosecutor told jurors during closing arguments Tuesday in the former pr...

12 mins ago

12 mins ago

Trump Prosecutor Emphasizes ‘Cover-Up’ in Closing Arguments; Defense Targets Key Witness

27 mins ago

Clovis Detectives Quickly Arrest Suspects in Construction Equipment Theft at Church

41 mins ago

Fresno ‘Flirts’ with Hot Weather. When Will Triple Digits Arrive?

50 mins ago

Albert Ruddy, Oscar-Winning Producer of ‘the Godfather’ and ‘Million Dollar Baby,’ Dies at 94

56 mins ago

Who Bears Some Blame for High CA Gas Prices? Look in the Mirror

1 hour ago

Israeli Strikes Kill 37 Palestinians Near Gaza’s Rafah as Offensive Expands

2 hours ago

Former ‘General Hospital’ Actor Johnny Wactor Killed by Catalytic Converter Thieves

3 hours ago

UC Workers’ Strike Spreads to UCLA & UC Davis Amid Free Speech Controversy

MENU

CONNECT WITH US

Search

Send this to a friend