Veterinarian - San Diego
1540 Morena Boulevard
San Diego, CA 92110



By Heather Beeson of Morena Pet Hospital
May 31, 2013
Category: Pet Care
Tags: pet care   dog care   cat care   foxtails  


Being a San Diegan and having worked in the veterinary field for many years, one becomes accustomed to the influx of pets that present each spring and summer with foxtails, a type of hard seed-bearing grass structure that are known to cause problems for our furry loved ones.  These foxtails are notorious for becoming lodged into a pet’s ears, nose, eyes, between the paw pads, and other various parts of the pet’s body.  We have even had a dog come in that had numerous foxtails on the inside of his mouth from when he chased his ball into the grass bushes!

Types of foxtails:

Southern California has a number of different variations of grasses that are categorized as “foxtails”.  They bloom from January through late March/April and tend to dry up and stay throughout summer into early fall. The most troublesome is the annual Hordeum murinum, also known as wild barley.  Other varieties include the rip gut grass , Bromus diamdrus, the cheatgrass Bromus tectorum, and the red brome, Bromus madritensis (, 2010).


Some signs to watch for if you suspect your dog may have come in contact with foxtails include uncontrollable sneezing, constant head shaking, swollen and irritated eyes, labored breathing and coughing.  Cats that spend time outdoors may show up with an eye that has swollen shut, or gagging and retching from a foxtail.  These foxtails are very dangerous to pets and should be treated immediately.  If left untreated, they have the potential to barb the skin causing severe infections or even migrate through the body, causing severe tissue damage.


  • The best advice (and only foolproof method of prevention) is to avoid foxtail exposure. 
  • Pay particular attention to where your pet is allowed to play.
  • Ask other pet owners if their dogs have experienced any trouble with foxtails in the area
  • During the summer months, you may want to consider getting your pet groomed, especially those dogs and cats with long hair that are more likely to accumulate foxtails in their fur. 
  • It is also recommended that owners do a thorough inspection of your pet’s coat after walks to be sure there are no meddling foxtails trying to burrow into the coat, ears, eyes, mouth, between toes, on the abdomen, and even under the collar.  Believe us, your pets will thank you later. 

Take Home Message:

If you notice your pet is scratching at an ear, shaking its head, sneezing excessively, pawing at the mouth, crying in pain, licking at an area between the toes on a paw, or elsewhere on the body where you may notice swelling or an opening, or a swollen eye, etc. and has been exposed to foxtails previously-please schedule to come in and see us ASAP!


Clark, Curtis. Dog Owners' Guide to California Foxtails. 1998.

Kay, Nancy, DVM. Protecting Your Dog Against Foxtails. The Bark., 2010.

Weed Gallery: Foxtails. Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California., 2011.