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What is Foxtails Injury?

The foxtail seeds will first attach to your dog’s fur as you are out and about on a walk. Once attached, these tough seeds work their way into the flesh and finally the organs. They can be inhaled, and get into your dog’s eyes and ears. Foxtails are nasty, and you need to check your dog for their presence after a walk, especially if you notice this somewhat innocuous looking plant. The seeds don’t break down inside your pet’s body either, causing serious infection and even death if left without treatment. Become familiar with this plant and the symptoms it causes; it could save your dog’s life.

While the foxtail plant looks harmless enough, it can cause your dog severe injury as the seeds work their way into your dog’s body system.

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Symptoms of Foxtails Injury in Dogs

  • Tilting of the head, scratching constantly at the ear (you may not see the seed, it may be too deep for visual identification) 
  • Limping and swelling around the feet may be caused by foxtail seeds (this area picks up the seeds easily from the ground and is easy to burrow into)  
  • Lump on the skin that are too painful to touch and your dog cringes when your try to feel it 
  • Redness, swelling, discharge, pawing at the eyes 
  • Persistent licking or biting the genital area 
  • Nasal discharge
  • Violent sneezing 
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite 

Types  

Because the seed only travels forwards when it travels (by muscle movement of the host), it keeps going within the body until it hits an obstacle like a bone. The body cannot break it down making it a tough seed to deal with. If it hits a vital organ it can cause irreparable damage and even death. There are two types of risk associated with foxtails attached to your dog.

  • The reaction of your pet’s body to having a foreign object invade the body 
  • The infections that are caused from the burrowing seed

Causes of Foxtails Injury in Dogs

  • Foxtail seeds are like porcupine quills, once they attach they move deeper by way of the motion and muscle contractions of your pet 
  • A hollow path is left behind where the seed or awl passes which is usually infected 
  • Pus goes hand in hand with foxtails
  • The outside of the seed contains a bacterium with enzymes that are used to break down vegetation (it is this bacterium that aids the burrowing) 
  • They can remain in the body for a long time, causing damage to your dog such as  in the lungs, heart, brain, liver and vital glands 
  • The seed penetrates quickly through any opening on your dog such as the throat, nose, ears, and even open sores, the anus, genitals and penile sheaths that are softer tissue 
  • The seed is shaped like a torpedo to enable easy penetration

Diagnosis of Foxtails Injury in Dogs

The most dangerous time to encounter foxtails are when the plant becomes dry and brittle and the grass heads begin to separate. The seed awns are designed to burrow into hard ground with the seed, which is why they can burrow right through your dog’s soft skin. Removing the visible seeds from your dog’s coat can be done with tweezers but is the seeds attached deep within the ear or eyes, nose throat, or any delicate area, that needs urgent attention. If you suspect that foxtail is the cause of your pet’s distress, take him immediately to your veterinarian for an examination. 

Your dog would be extremely lucky only to have one of these nasty seeds attached, and if you do remove any, you want to get the whole thing out not just part of it. Your vet will check every part of your dog, from between his toes, to inside his mouth. He will also feel over your dog’s fur on the body to see if there are any lumps on the skin where the seed has burrowed. Delicate areas such as the genitals and the anus provide easy access points to foxtail seeds.

Treatment of Foxtails Injury in Dogs

While there is not treatment for foxtails penetration as such, removal of any seed that has penetrated the skin and entered into vitals areas can be managed by your veterinarian. Under an anesthetic and surgical procedure, the offending seeds can be removed. Due to the nature of the seed, your dog may experience abscesses that require draining, and will need a course of antibiotics for any infection. The removal of the seed is a minor medical procedure, with after care medication and instructions provided. 

Once the seeds are removed, your dog will recover quickly (unless the seed has caused serious harm which your specialist will discuss treatment with you at the time). Observation of your dog is essential to ensure that all embedded seeds are removed. If the signs of distress don’t clear after one to three days, it may mean there are more seeds still in action. Prevention is the best way to keep your dog from harm from foxtails, make yourself familiar with the plant so you can avoid areas where it grows. And if you can remove it immediately if attachment does occur, so much the better.

Recovery of Foxtails Injury in Dogs

Unless serious damage over time has been done to your dog, he will recover quickly from the embedded seeds. Time and medication to allow healing will be needed, but usually they are so relieved once the seed and the pain is gone, that your pet will bounce back and be his normal self within days. Prevention is the best thing; foxtails should be avoided wherever possible. If they are growing on your land, removal is advised. Avoid any dead grass or dry patch areas. If you live in an area where you know the plant grows, give your dog a thorough examination after a long walk, and if possible keep him on a lead when walking so you know what he gets into. Giving your dog a good brush after a walk may expose some hidden seeds.

Foxtails Injury Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Mamas
Pit bull
10 Years
Moderate condition
1 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Swollen throat, cough, gaging

I think my dog swollowed a foxtail... shes extremly old (10 year) but cough/gags/throws up throughout the day.... at first it was just once in a while but then i notice a gold ball size ball in the thraot... now her whole throat seems swollen but i massage it, it goes down... im unsure if she can get through surgry to have it removed. If i dont take action. What would happen?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1079 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. Without examining Mamas, I can't really comment on what might be going on with her, but it would be best to have her examined by a veterinarian. They will be able to assess her health, determine what might be going on, and recommend any necessary testing or treatment. They'll be able to let you know if surgery is necessary or not.

what can i say. my gsd needed surgery to remove foxtail near his ribcage. didnt know they were so dangerous!

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Thor
Husky
1 Year
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Loss of Appetite

I picked about 5 foxtails out from all over my dogs skin there was blood and puss present. I plucked one out that was fairly deep. Should he get some kind of antibiotics to clear up all the spots he had them or will he heal on his own?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1079 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. Those foxtails can be nasty, and can burrow and cause chronic foreign body reactions. It would be best to have Thor seen, and have the foxtail wounds examined, by your veterinarian. They'll be able to let you know the best course of actiion once they have seen the wounds. I hope that he does well.

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beagle
Beaglier
10 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Pain When Lifted

it's stuck in my dog's butt. what do i do when it's stuck in my dog's butt? He's too sensitive to the area for me to manually extract. He's licking it more and more frequently making it more sore by the moment.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2499 Recommendations
If there is a foxtail or anything else stuck around his rear end and you are unable to remove it you should visit your Veterinarian to remove it since leaving it there will cause more irritation which will lead to more licking which in turn will lead to more irritation and so on. Your Veterinarian may be able to restrain him long enough to remove it quickly and safely to resolve the issue. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Oso
Poodle
2 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Drowsiness

Dragging tail very red no appetite

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2499 Recommendations

By dragging tail it is either low tail carriage which may be caused by injury or Oso is scooting across the floor; if the problem is the latter it may be due to impacted anal glands, parasites, faecal contamination of anal area or rectal issues. If the problem is with low tail carriage, injury is the most common cause; an examination by your Veterinarian would be valuable to determine the underlying cause. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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