Foxtails are dangerous for dogs

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Mike Tanaka


Foxtail grass is a common plant that can be found in many yards and parks in the United States. But did you know that dogs encountering these harmless looking plants can cause a trip to the vet?

We will cover in detail about what they are, how our Golden Retriever Max got some stuck between his toes that needed medical care and how we prevented this from happening again.

What are foxtail grass?

Different types of foxtails that are harmful to dogs

Foxtail grass is found in many different regions around the world. In the US, its range stretches from Arizona up to Canada, while in Europe it is found as far north as Scandinavia. This sturdy grass also grows throughout Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. It prefers well-drained, sandy soils and is found in both sunny and shady areas.

Foxtail grass is easily identifiable due to its unique shape. Its leaves are long and thin, giving the grass a wispy appearance. The seed head, or “brush”, forms a tassel at the end of the stem which can range in color from light yellow to dark brown.

The seeds of foxtail grass are sharp and pointy, and they can easily become lodged in a dog’s fur. If a seed gets caught in your dog’s fur, it will likely work its way into their skin.

These seeds are designed to keep burrowing so it can migrate through your dog’s body, puncturing organs and causing infection.

Foxtail grass incident with Max

When Max was 3 years old, I heard a yelp while he was out in the backyard. He started limping immediately. Something was bothering his left front leg as he was not putting any weight on it. There were no signs of bleeding or anything lodged in his paws so I decided to watch him carefully for a while. He was constantly licking his left front paw, so I deduced it was something in the paw. The problem was even checking his paw thoroughly, I could not find anything.

Vet visit and cost

I decided to take him to a vet close by and told the doctor the whole timeline of what happened and symptoms that Max was having. The doctor told me right away that it’s most likely foxtail grass lodged in his paw.

After propping Max up onto the examining table, he started to use a clipper on Max’s paw to clear out his fur between his paw pads. The doctor was right, between the pads in the soft area, foxtail grass had burrowed deep into his skin. With the vet assistant and I holding Max from moving, the doctor got a tweezer and took the foxtails out one by one. Luckily, we were able to catch all 4 foxtails before it completely penetrated the skin. 

The vet bill came out around $250. Max had to wear a cone to prevent him from licking his paw and had to take some antibiotic medicine for a few weeks. Also during that time, I had to hand feed Max for breakfast and dinner due to the cone blocking Max from getting the food inside the bowl.

Blocking access to foxtail ridden area in the yard

Back at the house and surveying the backyard, we spotted the area with foxtail grass. Using a wire mesh, we blocked access to it until there were no more signs of foxtail grass.

Blocked foxtail ridden backyard area with a mesh fence

Max recovered fully after a few weeks and we never had issues with foxtails again by blocking the area.

  1. It is important to know what foxtail looks like and avoid it like the plague when you are with your dog. 
  2. If you have foxtails in your backyard, see if you can get rid of it completely. If not, keep your dog from accessing the area.
  3. If you are walking or hiking in the area with foxtails about, consider getting your dog boots
  4. After walking outdoors, do a physical examination of your dog for any foxtails. ( And mites, ticks, etc )


As a pet owner, always be on the lookout for abnormal behavior and surroundings. For this incident, Max’s constant licking of his paw was the cue that something was wrong.

If you think your dog has a foxtail seed stuck somewhere, it’s important to take them to the vet immediately. The vet will be able to remove the seed and treat any infection that may have developed. 

Couple videos of Max recovering from foxtail vet visit.

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