Foxtail (Close-Up)
Source: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

Foxtail season in Berkeley is officially
here, and with it comes a rise in the risk for injury. Foxtail, or hordeum jubatum, is a weed commonly found throughout our neighborhood streets, our hiking locales, and the natural landscape that composes the beauty of Northern California. Foxtails go unnoticed during the rainy season, spreading rampantly and flourishing under the environmental conditions. With the advent of summer these weeds begin to dry, growing brittle as they change from grass green to
flaxen in color. It is at this state in the foxtail’s lifecycle that it poses a serious and potentially life-threatening risk to our animals.
Risks and Symptoms:

Foxtail 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 into — and then perforate — a lung.

Embedded foxtails can cause discharge, abscesses, swelling, pain, and death. If your dog is displaying any of the following symptoms, check for foxtail and contact Campus Veterinary Clinic:

•         Feet. Foxtail love your dog’s feet and can easily become embedded between tender toes. Check for foxtail if you notice swelling or limping or if your dog is constantly licking the area.

Foxtail Paw
Source: Southwest Veterinary Hospital ~

•         Ears. If your pooch 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. 


Foxtail (Ear)
Source: Southwest Veterinary Hospital ~

•         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. Foxtail can find their way into these areas too. So if you notice your dog persistently licking at its genitals, foxtail could be the cause.

For the full WebMD article click here.


Prevention and Treatment:

1. The first step in prevention depends on your ability to recognize the danger. Because a foxtail can enter a dog’s body at several points, it is best to avoid foxtail patches altogether. If traveling through areas with considerable foxtail growth is unavoidable we highly advise the use of an OutFox Field Guard. This can reduce the chances of a foxtail infection by guarding some of your pet’s more vulnerable areas: eyes, nose, mouth, and ears.

Field Guards

2. As with other dog ailments, the most effective asset in treatment is to pay attention to irregularities in your pet’s behavior. If he’s pawing at his ears; there’s a reason. If your pet is attempting to “soothe” or “relieve” itself by excessively licking its genitalia; there’s a reason. Your pet communicates his needs, his wants and his fears through his behavior. Be attentive and listen.

3. Regularly check your dog’s coat for stray foxtail. The seeds are naturally designed to cling to things in order to pollinate, consequentially, dogs with particularly thick or bushy coats are susceptible to catching loose seeds. Regularly check between your pet’s claws, and keep the hair around their paws trimmed to maintain visibility and reduce the chances of your dog carrying away a foxtail as he trots around the neighborhood.

If you begin to notice signs of an infection, immediately contact Campus Veterinary Clinic in order to schedule Emergency Services.