It’s foxtail season in the western United States (and some other places too) and many dog owners that live around these pesky plants know exactly what that means. As if having diligence in checking for fleas and ticks after being outdoors, checking your dog for foxtail spurs is a necessary part of doggy maintenance. Foxtails can be very dangerous and veterinarians see hundreds of dogs every year for foxtail-related injuries. The spurs are built in such a way that they can move forward, but not back out. That means they get lodged into your dog’s skin or another area and burrow deeper and deeper into the tissue, causing infection wherever they travel. Some foxtails have even been found burrowed all the way into a dog’s brain and another dog’s spine. It’s important to search your dog for foxtails regularly and knowing where to look is the best place to start.
#1 – Ears
Foxtails love to burrow into dog’s ears. When dogs run through tall grass or stick their heads in vegetation, it’s easy for a foxtail to grab on and quickly move into the ear canal. If you notice your dog shaking his or her head or rubbing and scratching at their ears, you might want to take a trip to the veterinarian. You can look yourself, but foxtails can move out of sight and deep into the ear very quickly. The further it burrows in, the more difficult and painful it is to remove, so early detection is the best treatment.
#2 – Eyes
Believe it or not, foxtails can and do get lodged into dogs’ eyes. Veterinarians remove foxtails from eyes fairly often, so be sure to take your pup to the vet if they’re scratching or rubbing at their eyes. Foxtails will get caught in the eyelids and travel deep underneath them, usually damaging the cornea along the way. Although easy to treat once removed, they are very painful and can cause blindness if left without care.
#3 – Nose
Dogs are always sniffing, so it only makes sense that foxtails are commonly found lodged in their noses. Foxtails that become lodged in the nose sometimes find their way into the dog’s lungs. There are rare cases where the foxtails migrate from the nose into the dog’s brain, becoming fatal. Thankfully, dog’s usually start showing symptoms when the spurs are in the nasal cavity so owners can seek veterinary care right away. Sneezing, snorting, difficulty breathing and scratching at the nose are all signs something might be stuck inside.
#4 – Feet
Feet are a great place for foxtails to dig in. All a dog has to do is step right on the spur and it will become lodged into the foot or even between the toes. The paws are probably one of the most common places veterinarian’s remove foxtails from. If you notice any swelling, redness, bleeding or other irritation, or if your dog is chewing or licking at one of their paws, you’ll definitely want to seek veterinary care.
#5 – Genitals
This might feel like an awkward spot to look on your dog, but it’s one of the common places veterinarians remove foxtails from. It makes sense; fotxtails sit on the end of grass that’s right at the perfect level when your dog lifts his leg or squats to use the restroom. Any irritation or excessive licking or chewing of this area is not normal and should be evaluated by a veterinarian. You might not see anything yourself, but many foxtails have been removed from the genital regions of both male and female dogs.