Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs


Foxtails are small tufted bristly seed heads that resemble a fox’s tail. Certain types of native grasses contain these hard seed-bearing structures often called "foxtails". The bristles contain tiny barbs, which allow the seed head to travel through the animal’s fur and eventually penetrate the skin. Foxtails can pose as a serious hazard for dogs. The barbs act the same way as a fish hook does, allowing the structure to move in the direction of the point. Once a foxtail becomes imbedded in the animal’s fur, it will travel down to the base of the hair and penetrate the skin. The foxtail may also enter the body through a cut or wound, especially near the feet or legs, causing infections and abscesses. But, the foxtails may also scratch or penetrate an eye, causing diminished sight or blindness. Foxtails can enter the ear canal and rupture the eardrum causing hearing loss or deafness. The worst scenario of all is if the foxtail is inhaled through the mouth or nostrils. The foxtail may enter the lung causing severe damage and infection or pneumonia. The foxtail can also penetrate the lung and migrate through the body causing internal injuries, infections or even death. Symptoms of an inhaled foxtail include violent sneezing, bloody nose and constant scratching at the snout. If you suspect that your dog has a foxtail, contact your vet as soon as possible.

The most problematic of these grasses is the actual "foxtail" or "wild barley" (Hordeum murinum). But, several other species of grasses can cause problems also.

Ripgut grass (Bromus diandrus) can actually perforate the stomachs and intestines of cattle that eat it. The Ripgut grass head is larger than a foxtail head and is therefore easier to see in a dog’s coat. Ripgut is commonly found on grassy hillsides. Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) is similar to Ripgut, but smaller in size. It is commonly found on grassy hillsides in desert areas throughout the southwest. Red Brome (Bromus madritensis), like foxtail grass, is another commonly found native grass in the southwest. It is sometimes confused with the foxtail as it is as much of a problem to canines.

Needlegrass is another native southwestern grass, which can cause problems for dogs as well, although less common.

Brushing your dog after each outing afield is the best way to ensure he will remain foxtail-free.

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