Dog Owners Beware: Foxtail Season is Here

If you live in Southern California and have dogs, you are probably aware of foxtails. But, in case you are new to the area, have a new pet or are walking or hiking in a different area, I’d like to share a little information. This occurred to me over the past week when I noticed the nasty weeds popping up in my own back yard. Spring has sprung, indeed.

Foxtails are a feature of many grasses that grow locally. The distribution in my yard is fairly sporadic, but it’s common to see areas along sidewalks that get overrun. I snapped the above photo on Alvarado near Sunset in Echo Park earlier this evening.

The plant becomes problematic when it dries out (see photo below) and the seeds break off.

The danger of foxtail seeds is that they are barbed, so when they get stuck in a dog’s coat, they work their way in and get stuck. Paws, ears and nostrils are particularly vulnerable. They can embed under the skin and have been known to get under eyelids, in throats, etc. The bottom line is these nasty things can cause pain, bleeding, infection and rather substantial vet bills. If you have foxtails on your property or walk your dog(s) in area where they grow, inspect the paws, ears and fur daily. They are difficult to eradicate, especially if you don’t want to use harsh chemicals. During the spring, summer and fall, I pull the plants out of the ground by hand on a daily basis. Even with my vigilance, my dogs have had a couple of instances of needing some minor vet attention due to a foxtail lodged in a paw or an ear.

P.S. I read that outdoor cats are also at risk, it is much lower due to their grooming habits.

3 Replies to “Dog Owners Beware: Foxtail Season is Here”

  1. Ugh, I see so many stray cats covered in this stuff. Now that I know it gets under their EYELIDS I feel even more sympathy for them.

    I think part of the solution for dog owners, at least — and I know I’m gonna sound like a broken record here — is to LEASH YOUR DOG when you’re out. I don’t think it’s possible to completely shield him from things like this; he’s going to walk through foxglove, he’s going to step in poop, he’s going to snap up disgusting pieces of garbage just like they’re milk-bones. But with a leash you can at least stop him and help him out if he does those things. And it can prevent a whole host of other mishaps, like attacks from other, more aggressive dogs, or your dog running after a squirrel and never being seen again.

  2. No arguments on the LEASH YOUR DAMN DOG when you are in public statement with me. HUGE pet peeve. I think I want people to be aware this might be in their yard and they might not realize it. It’s not always such a big patch of it. My dogs do spend some time going in and out during the day, and while I dig this stuff up almost as fast as it grows, it’s impossible to get all of it.

  3. it’s so funny you mentioned this…. I have lived in the hills for 20 years which are rampant with fox tails and never heard this til two days ago. I ran into my odd neighbor who was pulling them out of the hillside on the street nowhere near his house. I had seen piles of pulled weeds all over near where I live and wondered who was doing that. And why. It was a mess! He explained they were a menace to dogs …. I was doubtful cuz he is such an eccentric guy…. but now you’ve confirmed his concern!

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