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Foxtails in Dogs

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: February 22, 2018
Foxtails in Dogs

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When temperatures rise and spring comes we often feel like taking our dog for long walks outdoors, in parks or in fields. However we will encounter a problem during these walks: foxtails (or grass awns).

These arrow-shaped spikelets are produced by some types of grasses that have gone to seed. They can become embedded in the skin of our animals and cause irritation and infection. The problem is that when they stick into our pet's skin, we cannot always detect them, as some are so thin that they cannot be seen with the naked eye. In this AnimalWised article we will tell you everything you need to know about foxtails in dogs and how exactly to remove them.

You may also be interested in: My Dog Keeps Sneezing - Why and What to Do
  1. Be cautious, especially in summer
  2. Foxtails and dogs
  3. How to treat foxtails in dogs

Be cautious, especially in summer

When the grasses begin to dry and turn yellow, problems begin with these spikes (or foxtails), since they can be released more easily with any touch. The best way to prevent our dog from getting stung by these pesky spikes: avoiding places where there are a lot of these grasses and foxtails.

However, sometimes, it is impossible to walk our dog in a place free of foxtails, so we must take other measures. When dogs run through fields, these spiky foxtails can wriggle their way through the fur, deeper and deeper into their skin. To avoid this, we can cut the hair of our dog when spring arrives, so that if their ears are penetrated, it will be visible to the naked eye.

After a walk in the countryside it is advisable to brush and check the body of our dog. The areas of our dog's body that are most commonly penetrated are the pads of their paws or between their fingers. In this case we will see our dog limping and licking their paws.

Foxtails in Dogs - Be cautious, especially in summer

Foxtails and dogs

Below we will offer you some guidelines to help you remove these foxtails or grass awns.

After a walk in the countryside we should check our dog and look for any foxtails that could have embedded themselves in our dog. If we see one, we can extract it with tweezers to avoid breaking it. Then apply a spray or a soothing cream to avoid itching and ensure your dog does not scratch or cover it with mud, otherwise the area could become inflamed.

If we cannot find the foxtail or it breaks when trying to remove it, it could go completely under the skin and provoke granuloma by foreign body. In this case we would see a red, inflamed area that can become infected and oozing. We should take our dog to the vet to have the spike removed through simple surgery and disinfect the wound.

Foxtails in Dogs - Foxtails and dogs

How to treat foxtails in dogs

Sometimes these foxtails stick in the most unsuspected places, even getting through their eyes, nose or ears. In these cases you must take your dog to the vet to have it removed safely. If we try ourselves, we could just push it further and make the situation worse.

  • How to remove a foxtail from dog's eyes: if the foxtail goes behind the eyelid it will cause great pain and inflammation, damaging the cornea and producing an ulcer. If it is not treated quickly, the dog can become blind, so we will have to go urgently to the vet to remove it with eye drops and antesthesia.
  • How to remove a foxtail from a dog's nose: if it spike gets into the dog's nose, they will not be able to stop sneezing and their nose may even bleed. They will begin to scratch their nose with their paw insistently to try to get it out. Sometimes it can come out with the force of a sneeze, but if not, we will have to go to the vet.
  • How to remove a foxtail from dog's ear: Dogs with long, drooping ears often have a lot of problems with foxtails in this area. The dog will shake their head constantly and tilt it to the side that hurts most, as if they have otitis. If the foxtail pierces the eardrum it can cause irreparable damage, such as deafness in the dog, so you should take them immediately to the vet to extract it with special tweezers.
Foxtails in Dogs - How to treat foxtails in dogs

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Foxtails in Dogs, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.

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Amaizing info!
I need to know how to remove the foxtails. I had to take my dog to the vet to remove them on her abdomen as it had become very infected. However after I got home I noticed she had a lot embeded in her chest area. I have tried to brush her and its bleeding. what would be the best thing to do to remove them ?
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Helen,

As we say in the article, you need to get in there are remove them individually with tweezers. It may be time consuming, but you can't just brush them out. It had make them harder to spot and therefore remove if you do so. Take your time and locate each one, ensuring you keep the dog calm while you do so.
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Foxtails in Dogs