Foxtail plants can be risky for your pet. The barbed seed heads of the foxtail plant can work their way into any part of your dog or cat, from the nose to between the toes and inside the ears, eyes, and mouth. They can even simply dig themselves directly into a patch of skin.
Foxtails travel. Moving relentlessly forward, never back, they can migrate from inside your dog’s nose to its brain. They can dig through skin, or be inhaled traveling into a lung or migrating into the abdomen.
Embedded foxtails can cause frequent and intense sneezing, discharge, abscesses, swelling, pain, and death. If your pet has recently been exposed to overgrown grassy or weeded areas, and has any of the above symptoms, contact your veterinarian.
Feet. Foxtails love your dog’s feet and can easily become embedded between toes. Check for foxtails if you notice swelling or limping or if your dog is constantly licking the area.
Ears. If your pet is shaking his head, tilting it to the side, or scratching incessantly at an ear, this could be the sign of a foxtail — one that may be so deep inside the ear canal you can’t see it. Your veterinarian needs to take a look using a special scope.
Eyes. Redness, discharge, swelling, squinting, and pawing all may 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 intensely, there may be a foxtail lodged in a nasal passage.
Vagina or penis. Foxtails can find their way into these areas, too. So if you notice your dog persistently licking at its genitals, and was recently in tall grassy areas, foxtails could be the cause.
Any dog can get foxtails in the ears, nose, eyes, or mouth. But dogs with long ears and curly hair can be especially prone to foxtail problems. The easiest way to prevent foxtail problems is to keep your dog out of overgrown, grassy areas. You should also pull out any foxtail plants you find in your yard. Also consider trimming your dog’s hair during foxtail season.