How to Remove Foxtails From Dog Ears

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Sometimes it takes a vet to remove a foxtail.
Sometimes it takes a vet to remove a foxtail. (Image: michaeljung/iStock/Getty Images)

Foxtail is a grassy weed that grows mainly throughout the western United States, but may be found in other places as well. This plant has a sharp, V-shaped seed that can find its way into your dog’s ears, nose, coat and paws. Once there it can work its way into your pet’s body and migrate, causing infection and serious damage under his skin or in his brain, lungs, heart or other organs. Removing foxtails before they become embedded is best; once a foxtail has embedded itself in your pet you’ll need to take him to the vet to get it removed.

From the Ears

Your dog may shake his head or paw at his ears if he has a foxtail in them. Look inside to see if you can see any sign of a foxtail. If so, carefully remove it with your fingers or tweezers. Be sure to get the whole thing, since any bits left behind can still cause trouble for your pet. Some dogs are very reluctant to have their ears handled, especially if they are in pain. A trip to the vet for sedation may be necessary if your dog resists allowing you to handle his ears.

From the Eyes and Nose

If you can see a foxtail in your dog’s eye or even suspect one, take him to the vet immediately. Symptoms of a foxtail in the eye include keeping the eye shut, pain and swelling of the eye. If your pet has a foxtail in his nose, look for it. If you can clearly see it, gently grab the foxtail with your fingers or tweezers. A dog with a foxtail in his nose may sneeze frequently and paw at his nose. These symptoms may be accompanied by a nasal discharge. Since a foxtail can easily travel from your pet’s nose to his brain, if you can’t remove it get him to the vet as soon as possible.

From the Paws

It’s not unusual for foxtails to end up between your dog’s toes. If not removed these foxtails can travel up your dog’s leg, creating an infected lump that can result in serious harm to your pet. Check carefully between his toes for foxtails, and if you can’t see the area clearly, use your fingers to feel for anything that doesn’t belong. If you see a foxtail, pull it out with your fingers. If it is embedded, soak his foot for 15 minutes in warm water several times a day for three days which may help his foot to create an abscess that will burst and push out the foxtail. Your dog may limp or may lick continuously at his foot or leg if he has a foxtail there. If he has symptoms but you can’t find it, take him to the vet to have it removed.

Precautions and Prevention

If you suspect that your dog has been exposed to foxtails, check him over carefully to see if he’s picked up any of the seeds. Keep him out of areas where foxtails are growing once the seed heads have developed. At home, keeping the grass short will prevent foxtails from developing seeds and thus prevent your dog from picking them up. Mow it often to keep it short and pull any foxtail grass that you see to minimize the problem in the future.

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