Foxtails are a type of grass weed found all throughout San Diego county. They have a seed awn that can be extremely dangerous to pets. The foxtail awns are barbed and sharp designed to burrow into the ground with the seed.
The sharp needles on the seed heads of the foxtail plant are what make it dangerous. They can work their way into any part of your dog or cat, from inside the nose to between the toes and inside the ears, eyes, and mouth. They can even tunnel directly into the skin. They cause damage to tissue and infections as they migrate.
Below is a video at our hospital about foxtails !
Tyson is a beautiful Dog de bordeau that presented with acute facial
swelling. Initially, it looked like he was having an allergic reaction because he came on so quickly and there were no other signs.
But the symptoms progressed. His swelling continued to get bigger, he seemed more painful, he started having pain chewing and the owner noticed some blood tinged saliva. This could be anything from a tooth infection, an infected salivary gland, a mass, a rattle snake bite, or a foreign object like a Foxtail…
Finding foxtails in swollen tissue can be like searching for a needle in a haystack. With the history, the progression, the location of the swelling, it seemed to us that there was a foxtail hiding somewhere in poor Tyson’s face.
We decided to anesthetize him and take a further look. There’s no way to easily x-ray your dog to look for these — on X-ray they look just like the tissue that surrounds them! Sure enough there was an area of mucosa in the mouth that appeared to have some discharge, probing further we were able to reopen a tiny puncture wound, the hole had sealed over. and probing 8 inches deeper we found the foxtail! (see picture below)
Tyson recovered well and is back to playing with his best Frenchbuddies. 🙂
This picture was taken just several days after removing the foxtail. What a sweet boy!
It is important to be aware of the danger so that you can take preventative measures to reduce or eliminate harm to your pet.
Signs that your pet may have a foxtail:
-painful or irritating swelling
-increased licking of a specific area
-discharge or drainage from a wound
-head shaking (in the ears!)
-sneezing fits or nasal discharge
-loss of appetite
-pawing at the eye or squinting
-scooting on the ground
- Feet: Foxtails frequently become embedded between toes or in the bottom of feet. You may notice a red or swollen area with discharge, your pet constantly licking that area, or limping. Check feet routinely.
- Ears: If your dog or cat is shaking his or her head, tilting it to the side, or scratching incessantly at an ear it could be a foxtail. They travel far down the ear canal you where can’t see.
- Eyes: Redness, discharge, swelling, squinting, and pawing could be signs your dog has a foxtail lodged in its eye. If you think this may be the case, seek veterinary care immediately.
- Nose: If you see discharge from the nose, or if your dog is sneezing frequently and/or intensely, a foxtail could be lodged in a nasal passage.
- Mouth: Foxtails can stick into the gums, tonsils, and mucosa of your pets mouth. If you see your pet pawing at the mouth, loss of appetite, difficulty chewing, or notice a fowl odor - foxtails could be lodged in the oral mucosa. They can be swallowed and cause even greater damage in the intestinal tract.
- Skin: Foxtails can also lodge under a dog’s skin, which causes visible swelling and/or pus discharge. Check your pet’s coat and skin frequently. Routine grooming will help.
- Foxtails can also find their way into your dog’s penis or vagina. If you notice your dog persistently licking at its genitals, foxtails could be the cause.
Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns about foxtails and your pet!
~ San Diego Bay Animal Hospital