trail running dog

What Is a Foxtail?

May is traditionally the beginning of Foxtail season in San Diego. Spring and summer months are filled with what we call “dog running hazards”.  What could possibly be a “dog running” hazard, which we don’t already know about?  Let us explain to you the dangers of Foxtails and Dogs.


Foxtails are prevalent in the Western US, and are ever present in parks, sidewalks and fields (even your backyard).  The danger in the Foxtail plant are the awns, which are the seed heads.  They have a sticky and sharp barb which can, and will, get stuck on your clothes.  In summer months, they dry and can easily lodge itself into your dog’s fur, ear canal, nostril, and toes.  To better identify Foxtails, The Center For Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health is a fantastic resource to distinguish the difference between Foxtail and other grasses.

Foxtail Safety Tips:

One important suggestion from us is to keep your dog’s coat short during summer months.  Not only is this helpful to avoid your pup from overheating, it reduces the chances of Foxtails getting stuck in his coat. Make sure your Groomer also trims ear hair, especially if you have a long-eared breed such as a Beagle or Basset Hound.  

Also, while exercising with your dog, keep him away from dry, taller grass areas.  Foxtail plants are common in these areas of overgrowth, and avoidance is best. If trail running or hiking, stay on wide open spaces to avoid both Foxtails as well as those summertime trail residents,  Rattlesnakes!  After each outing, do as we do with our four-legged clients.  We always examine the fur, paws and ears of our running dogs.  

Signs of Foxtail Ingestion:

If your dog has been playing in grassy fields and starts to sneeze uncontrollably, he may have a Foxtail lodged up his nose.  Also, if he is squinting, shaking his head or excessively licking his paw, a Foxtail may be stuck. If left untreated, this could cause infection, and be lethal.  Call your Vet as soon as possible if any of these signs occur.  

We are well aware of the dangers of Foxtails and dogs (and cats!) and want to make sure our four-legged population stays healthy.  We also want their humans to understand why we do our best at The Fittest Dog, to stay away from dry grassy areas during our summer runs.  Although not always easy to avoid such a popular Southern California grass, awareness is the best we can do for the safety of our dogs!

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