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Buster’s Vision Education Tool

Deadly Foxtail

By Bobbi Evenson, Founder for Buster’s Vision & Proud to be an Animal Advocate

Foxtails and Pets

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The Foxtail. One of the Deadliest Enemies Known to Pets.

You take a walk with your furry friend during foxtail season and it’s quite possible a foxtail can silently invade their body in the snap of your fingers. The barbed seed head of the foxtail plant can work their way into any body part of a dog or cat. Savagely it can dig through the skin, nose, mouth, ears, eyes, or between the paws. You would think foxtails are a living thing and not a plant.  They seem to have only one mission. To kill its prey.

My Worst Nightmare

I woke up one morning and my fur-baby had a lump the size of a grapefruit protruding from the lower bottom side of his front body. You can’t imagine the horrific ordeal to follow.

Kepler (my dog) had four surgeries within the span of four months before they found the foxtail. He was nearly on his deathbed. It was an excruciatingly painful ordeal for poor Kepler. I truly believe he wanted to die because of the pain. There was no life left in him. I struggled night after night wonder if I should let him go. I was a wreck watching my fur-baby in violet raging pain. My vet kept telling me to be patient and have faith.

During the fourth surgery, my vet came out of the operating room in his smock, mask, and rubber gloves yelling, “I found it! I found it! It’s a foxtail!” He was holding it up to the light with the tweezers. I was so shocked. It was so tiny. How is it possible this tiny barb seed could travel its way into the tissue lining of Kepler’s lungs and cause so much horrific pain? If it punctured through his lungs he would have died. It was that close. That very expensive foxtail nearly cost my doggy’s life and $4,000.00 dollars.

How to protect your fur-buddy from foxtails:

  • Be MINDFUL of foxtail season and take extra precautions in advance.
  • Use preventive measures to avoid foxtails. 
  • Know your enemy. What do foxtails look like? Where are foxtails present? Foxtails can be in bad yards with lots of dry grass and weeds. It is very rare to find them in well-maintained or groomed lawns. 
  • Walk your dog in neighborhoods with green healthy lawns. Imagine your dog sniffing the barbed seed and tunneling its way to the brain. It’s that easy for your dog or cat to get foxtails.
  • Always do a foxtail check-up every time you go out for a walk during foxtail season. Make sure you do a thorough check of your fur-baby’s entire body: fur, legs, paws, inside the paws, mouth, eyes, ears, nose. Every inch of their body. When you go on a hike. Take a break and check for foxtails and it’s a good idea to look for ticks too. Pets with furry coats are more susceptible to foxtails. They can blow in the wind and latch onto a furry pet’s coat and dig through a patch of skin. Every time your pet moves its muscles the barbed seed will continue to tunnel deeper and deeper into the flesh of their body.

  • Always keep your dog on a leash so they are with you at all times and you can observe their behavior. If you turn your head or let them run free trouble happens. They can easily find a small patch of foxtails and sniff or step on a foxtail.
  • Talk to family, friends, dog walkers or pet caretaker about foxtails. Show them on your Smartphone a picture of the barbed seed. Educate them to the smallest detail. Show them how to do a foxtail and tick check-up. Foxtails are more deadly to pets than most ticks.
Contact a veterinarian ASAP if your fur-baby gets a foxtail.

The longer you delay. The further the barbed seed will burrow into your fur-baby’s body. The expense will be more costly due to multiple surgeries in locating the foxtail internally. The situation will become more deadly. Your fur-baby will suffer more on-going excruciating pain and most probably a horrible death due to procrastination. Take care of your pet's health ASAP when experiencing a foxtail.

What is a foxtail?

It is a spikelet or cluster of a grass, that serves to disperse its seeds as a unit. Thus, the foxtail is a type of diaspora or plant dispersal unit. Some grasses that produce foxtails are also called “spear grass”. They can be a dangerous health hazard for domestic animals, and a nuisance for people. Fires started by lighting can burn down foxtail grass, but the grass has strong roots underground that allow it to grow back. (Source: Wikipedia)

I captured this picture, as it is more realistic to a bad neighborhood lawn. Foxtails can be in inconspicuous small patches you wouldn’t even notice.

Foxtails in Yard

Seattle DogSpot, Foxtailgrass Can Kill Your Dog, May 1, 2016

foxtail foxtails foxtail season
Picture Source: COURGARBOARD

Foxtail in Dogs Tooth

Picture Source: Animal Hospital in Fairfield

cat eye foxtail