Everything You Need To Know About Protecting Your Pet From Foxtail Grass

Responsible pet parents understand the importance of giving their dogs outdoor playtime, but Foxtail grasses could make it difficult this summer.

Prevalent in the Western United States, the seed awnings of foxtail grass are barbed. They stick into fur and skin, and sometimes even require the help of a veterinarian to remove.

According to Nancy Kenos, writing for the Whole Dog Journal, “In California, where I have spent all but one year of my life (so far) with dogs, there are two types of dog owners: those have spent a small fortune having veterinarians remove foxtails from some part of their dogs’ bodies, and those who haven’t – yet. I’m in the first group, and I would hazard a guess that the first group is far larger than the second.”

Source: Pexels
Foxtail grass grows lush and green in the spring.


Here are a few tips on dealing with foxtail grass, and keeping your pet safe from it.

Source: flickr/the Equinest
Foxtail grass fans out in the summer.

5. How to spot foxtail grass

Once foxtail grasses have sprung up, Seattle Dog Spot reports, their bright green seeds cling to delicate stalks, much like wheat berries. The seeds are held closely together at first, but as warm summer weather dries the plant, they fan out and fall to the ground.

This is when the foxtail grasses pose the biggest threat.

The barbed seeds are easily picked up by pet paws and fur, and can work their way into sensitive areas, like your pet’s nose and eyes.


Source: Pixabay
Foxtail grasses grow predominantly in the western United States.

4. Where does foxtail grass grow?

There are several species of foxtail grasses in North America, but Hordeum murinum and Hordeum marinum are the two you need to look out for.

Unlike Hordeum brachyantherum, a foxtail plant found all over western North America, and Hordeum jubatum, which can be found in the United States and Canada, H. murinum and H. marinum is prevalent in the western U.S., particularly on the West Coast.

According to the Whole Dog Journal, foxtail grass grows throughout California, Oregon, and Washington, in pastures and lawns, driveways and even cracks in the sidewalk.


Source: Pexels
Serious cases of foxtail infection can lead to death.

3. What does Foxtail grass do to pets?

Dogs suffering from foxtail grass awn penetration may appear to have an infection. Symptoms include:

  • lethargy
  • loss of appetite
  • painful swellings
  • signs of drainage

Severe cases can be much worse. According to WebMD, “Embedded foxtails can cause discharge, abscesses, swelling, pain, and death.”

Click the button below to learn what to do if your pet tangles with foxtail grasses.

Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.
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