How to Protect Your Dog During Foxtail Season

How to Protect Your Dog During Foxtail Season

Foxtails and grass seed awns are designed to do one thing: burrow. This is how the grass spreads as the seed slowly works its way deeper and deeper into soil. Unfortunately for our canine companions, this mechanism works just as well on your dog’s skin as it does on dirt.


Paw abscess from a burrowing foxtail seed.

Foxtail seed embedding in gums.

Due to the unique shape of this seed, it’s always moving forward — never backward. As a seed burrows into your dog’s skin, it has the potential to cause an abscess or other injury. The most common areas for your dog to pick up a foxtail or grass seed are his paws and ears (particularly for long-eared breeds), but many dogs also get them lodged in their throats or stuck in their gums after eating grass. Some even get them up their noses while sniffing near the ground. And short-haired dogs are not exempt; these seeds are just as likely to burrow into a smooth-coated dog as into a fluffy one.

Foxtails are widespread, nearly impossible to avoid, and pose a real danger to your dog. But you don’t have to restrict your dog to asphalt and concrete for your summer outings. There are many things you can do to keep your dog safe.

  • Remove foxtail grass from your yard or cut down as much as possible.
  • Keep your dog away from foxtail grasses while on walks or hikes.
  • Don’t allow your dog to eat grass where foxtails and other grass seeds are present.
  • If your dog tolerates them well, dress him in paw protector boots before you go to areas where foxtails are prevalent.
  • Thoroughly check your dog for seeds after spending time outdoors. The easiest thing to do is simply run a fine-toothed comb through your dog’s fur. This will allow you to remove the seeds before they reach the skin.
  • Be sure to check your dog’s mouth and nose as well. If your dog suddenly begins coughing or rubbing his face, a foxtail seed might be the culprit.

Boots can protect your dog’s feet from foxtails.

Fine-toothed combs can help remove foxtails before they reach the skin.

One more tip: Foxtail seeds are light gold or pale tan in color as they fall from the stalk. This makes them especially difficult to spot on a blond dog. Golden Retrievers, Yellow Labs, and such need a very careful screening after a romp at the park.