Foxtail? What’s A Foxtail?

Keep you pets SAFER from foxtails this summer by following my Tech Tips.



IMG_4507If you’ve been hiking in Nevada or California, you are no stranger to foxtailsThis small grassy plant with flowery spikes poses a threat to many pets both at home and on the trails.  Because of its hardy nature most individuals even find them difficult to remove from their yards.

These spiky seeds migrate through the skin and can burrow deep into tissues of the paws, ears, eyes, lungs, kidneys…or worse….the brain.  Their barb-like characteristic pushes the plant further into the body; they fester and cause abscesses.

At Lone Mountain Veterinary Hospital, we’ve seen our fair share of foxtail abscesses lately.  The seeds are drying up with the hot desert sun making it easier for them to cling to fur.

This is Bodey, an English Spaniel. His owners are new to the area; they didn’t know the dangers of foxtails.  

IMG_4497Not only are they painful, they’re costly too.  Bodey’s treatment included blood work; sedation; lancing and flushing the abscesses; and trimming the hair on his feet.  Bodey also went home with antibiotics and pain medication. The total? About $400.

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IMG_4482Here’s Wiley, a domestic short-haired cat who spends his time indoors and outdoors.  His owners brought him in to have a lump checked.  (Remember, lumps and bumps can mean cancer; address them ASAP.)  Turns out, it was an abscess….a foxtail abscess.

Keep you pets SAFER from foxtails this summer by following my Tech Tips.



Tech Tips

Pull foxtail plants from yards.

  • I pull them as soon as I see them!

After a hike or walk, inspect you pet’s body for any hitchhikers. Use a comb or fingers for a hands-on approach.

  • Ears – Lift the pinna (floppy part) and look into the ear.
  • Feet – With your fingers, trace between each toe, webbing and nail bed.
  • Eyes – Catch them on their fur before they migrated into the eye. If you suspect a foxtail in your pet’s eye, bring them to your vet ASAP. Ulcers can cause permanent, costly damage.
  • Armpits – Give your dog or cat a good belly rubbin’ and check them out!
  • Prepuce and vaginal folds – I know it’s a little personal, but it’s imperative. Foxtails migrate into these openings and often aren’t checked.  Use disposable gloves if available, and wash hands thoroughly.

Keep your pet groomed shorter in the summer.

  • Trim hair on their feet very short so they can be easily inspected.  At work we call it “poodle feet” or “foxtail feet.”

Look for signs of a foxtail abscess.

  • Feet – Limping and licking
  • Ears – Shaking head
  • Any NEW red, swollen, warm bumps
  • Depression and anorexia

Foxtails are unavoidable in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Do what you can to prevent your pet from becoming a victim of this dangerous pest.  

 Keep your pets safe with my weekly Tech Tips…Follow me, Aubrie – LVT & EMBA!



Author: Aubrie Ricketts

Experienced Licensed Veterinary Technician, Executive Master of Business Administration - University of Nevada, Reno. I love marketing and promoting preventative medicine and pet wellness. I have a dedicated passion for veterinary anesthesia and pain management.

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