Foxtails cause numerous problems for pets. Foxtails commonly embed in the skin, ears, eyes, and nose. If your pet eats seeded grass, they may lodge in the throat, particularly behind the tonsils. If your pet squats low, they can also move into the penis or vulva. The sharp endpoints and microscopic barbs of foxtails ensure travel in only one direction – further inside the animal’s body. Once inside, foxtail removal becomes a surgical procedure and must be done by a veterinarian.
Foxtails occur in grassy, outdoor areas. Animals that hunt or play in uncut grass are at highest risk. Animals that do not go outside or that do not have access to grassy areas are at low risk.
Geography affects risk. Foxtails are very common in some areas (such as northern California), and less common in others (such as dense forests or deserts).
Due to feline grooming habits, foxtails are less likely to remain embedded in the skin of cats than that of dogs. However, foxtails commonly get stuck in a cats’ eye.
Animals with long, thick hair are more likely to attract and collect foxtails. Foxtails may blend in and go unnoticed (and therefore un-removed) in animals with tawny or straw-colored hair.
The CVMA recommends regular grooming of all pets that spend time outdoors. Without this, foxtails can become embedded in animals’ coats, eventually piercing their skin and causing infections.