How to Safeguard Your Dog From Cheatgrass and Foxtails

How to Safeguard Your Dog From Cheatgrass and Foxtails


Summer is just around the corner and we can finally take advantage of the sunny days to do outdoor activities with our dogs. Isn’t that great? It sure is. 

But it’s not always fun. Unfortunately, some things can get in the way and turn a fun day into a drama for your furry best friend. Heat waves aren’t the only enemy of summer dangers; foxtails are just as dangerous and can have serious consequences if not treated immediately.

Keep reading to learn more about foxtails and how to spot them.

Foxtails: what are they and how can they affect our dog?

Foxtail is a weed characterized by a barbed structure. It is made up of small, barb-like seeds that, once dried, fall from the stems and spread very easily. You will most likely find them on hiking trails and open fields, but they can also grow in parks and gardens.

At this point, you may be wondering how it is possible for this tiny seed to seriously harm your furry friend. Here’s the answer: foxtails get caught in your dog’s fur and get into almost every part of his or her body, from the skin to the eyes, nose, mouth, ears, and, of course, the paws. They can have serious consequences for dogs because, once they have reached all the inner parts, fox tails cause infections and abscesses. In the worst case, they can even migrate into the muscles. It is therefore extremely important to act immediately and remove them as soon as possible. 

Signs that may indicate the presence of foxtail:

The truth is that it can be quite tricky to figure out whether or not your dog has a foxtail, but there are some signs you should always pay attention to:

  • Eyes: you may notice watery eyes and mucus discharge.
  • Nose: your dog is sneezing and/or bleeding from the nostril.
  • Mouth: excessive coughing, repeated swallowing.
  • Ears: your dog shakes his head and cries. Note that it can be difficult to spot a fox tail once it has penetrated deep into the ear.
  • Paws: You will begin to notice your dog continually chewing on his paw or licking between his toes. If you see an abscess, unfortunately, foxtail has already entered your friend’s paw. 

Sometimes, similar symptoms can occur even if the problem is not caused by foxtail. Nevertheless, knowing that this is a common summertime hazard, we recommend that you take your dog to the vet for a checkup if you notice any of these signs.

What vets recommend:

It is essential to remove foxtails from your yard or area where your dog usually spends time off-leash.

Keep an eye out for foxtails on walks and try to keep them away from your dog. It’s a good idea to keep your dog on a short leash when you walk him, as this helps you keep the situation under control.

Most importantly, check on your dog after every walk or outdoor play. Comb your dog’s hair thoroughly and inspect his fur, ears, eyes, nose, and paws, especially in the space between his toes.

What to do if you spot foxtail: 

Occasionally, while inspecting your dog after a walk, you may spot a fox tail. In this case, you should first assess whether or not the foxtail is still superficial.

You may spot one on your dog’s coat, for example. You can then proceed to remove it with your hands or with tweezers if you want to be even more careful. Be sure not to leave any part of the fox tail behind.

However, if it has already penetrated the skin or, in the case of the ear, if you find that it is already deeply embedded, it is best to take your four-legged friend to the vet immediately. The sooner the fox tail is removed, the better. It is important that you do not do this yourself at home, as the fox tail can break into pieces and some parts may remain inside. 

Using this information with a dog walker: 

Gundog dog walkers typically plan several walking routes in their area that they know are dog-friendly. However, we always recommend that you speak with your handler prior to any walk to confirm the route and ensure that all necessary accessories are provided (water, leashes, poop bags, etc.), as well as your pet’s usual exercise regimen, medications, or allergies he or she may have, including seasonal issues, such as foxtails.

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