Foxtails are common plants that grow just about everywhere in North America. Even though several plants take on the foxtail name, foxtails can actually be a number of different plant types. These plants are called “foxtails” because they have these spikelet seeds that disperse easily when touched a certain way and resemble a fox’s tail. The seeds come to a point that is so sharp that foxtail grasses are also sometimes referred to as “spear grass.” The pointed ends of foxtail seeds can pose significant hazards to dogs, cats, and other animals.
How Foxtails Are Deadly to Dogs
The foxtail plants can be dangerous and even deadly to dogs because the seed heads can embed themselves into the skin of the animal. The seeds are so pointedly sharp that they can break the skin in between the digits, in the ears, in the eyes, and even in the mouth. Even though foxtails are not necessarily poisonous, the seeds get into the system and can cause serious infections and even death.
The slim seeds can travel through the body almost seamlessly. For example, if a foxtail penetrates the nose, it could travel through to the brain. Likewise, a seed that embeds itself between the toes can travel all the way up a dog’s leg and into the main arteries.
Signs Your Dog May Have a Foxtail
Foxtail seeds are not that large, but they cause almost immediate pain and irritation when they penetrate the skin. Your dog may show several signs of a foxtail, but those symptoms and signs can vary depending on the entry point:
- Paws – Whimpering in pain while walking, swelling around the paws, drainage from the entry site
- Ears – Swelling, fluid around the penetration site, whining, pawing at the ears, and profusely shaking its head
- Eyes – Swollen eyelids, not opening the eyes, whining, and pawing at the eyes
What to Do if You Think Your Dog May Have a Foxtail
When left unattended, a single foxtail seed can cause a significant threat to your dog. If you suspect your dog has a foxtail, it is important to visit urgent care or emergency vet right away. If you suspect a foxtail, but you’re not sure or your local vet is closed for the day, reach out to us at Video Vet Chat. We can help you triage your pet to determine if you are dealing with a foxtail.