Ears (likely the #1 most common spot)
Mouth / throat
Paws (may compete with ears for #1 most common spot)
Private areas (especially in female dogs)
“If your dog has been anywhere near foxtails, and has any sort of abnormal sign of discomfort or irritation – shaking her head, an uncharacteristic squint, repetitively licking her paw or other part of her body, sneezing, coughing, gagging – call your vet and make an appointment as soon as possible.” https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/care/environmental-hazards/foxtail-grass-awns-of-destruction-for-western-dogs/
“While some ﬁrst aid may be possible in the event of a foxtail wound, in almost all cases you should get your dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Delaying treatment allows the foxtail to do further damage; avoiding foxtail treatment altogether could lead to your dog developing a chronic illness or could even lead to death.” https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/care/symptoms-and-treatment-of-foxtail-invasions-in-dogs/?MailingID=32&utm_source=ActiveCampaign&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Here+s+How+to+Treat+Foxtail+Invasions+in+Dogs&utm_campaign=WE20190525
Foxtails in the Ears
RISK: Chronic irritation, infections, eardrum damage, deafness.
SYMPTOMS: Head tilting or head shaking.
FIRST AID: Squirting mineral oil into the ear to soften the awn is a common recommendation. But Dr. Randy Acker, author of Field Guide to Dog First Aid: Emergency Care for the Outdoor Dog, cautions against it; if the eardrum has been damaged, the oil will do more harm than good. Get to a vet as quickly as possible.
TREATMENT: The vet examines the ear with an otoscope and uses alligator forceps to extract the foxtail. Sedation may be necessary.
Foxtails in Your Dog’s Paws
RISKS: Abscesses, infections.
SYMPTOMS: Continual licking of the foot or pad, bumpy swelling between the toes, or a small hole.
FIRST AID: If you can see the foxtail, you can try to remove it by hand or by using blunt-tipped tweezers. For embedded foxtails, soaking the paw (plain, warm water, 15 minutes, two to three times a day for three days) may promote the formation of an abscess that will eventually burst and expel the awn. If this happens, continue soaking in antiseptic water for several days.
A veterinary checkup is necessary if the foxtail is not expelled or if you see bumps forming in other areas of the paw or leg – a sign that the foxtail is migrating. Follow up with your vet in any case.
TREATMENT: The vet will locate and remove the foxtail.
Foxtails in the Nose
RISK: Chronic irritation, infections, tissue damage; may migrate into brain.
SYMPTOMS: Violent, explosive, serial sneezing. There may be a slight bloody dischage.
FIRST AID: None. Get to a vet as soon as possible.
TREATMENT: The dog must be sedated, and a topical anesthetic may be needed to numb the inside of the dog’s nose.
Using a rhinoscope, the veterinarian will visually inspect the area and extract the awn using alligator forceps.
Foxtails in the Eyes
RISKS: Irritation, corneal scratches, ulcers, conjunctivitis, blindness.
SYMPTOMS: Squinting, discharge, an eye glued shut.
FIRST AID: Some trail first-aid advocates suggest removing a visible foxtail in the dog’s third eyelid by hand, by using blunt tweezers, or with a damp Q-Tip. However, you risk not removing it completely or driving it deeper. Instead, keep the dog from pawing at the eye and take her immediately to the vet – ideally to a veterinary opthalmologist.
TREATMENT: With a calm dog, the vet will use a numbing agent on the eye and remove the foxtail. A panicked or excitable dog may need sedation.
Foxtails in the Mouth or Throat
RISKS: Damage to periodontal pockets, the tongue, or throat; infection; can be inhaled into lung.
SYMPTOMS: Hacking, gagging, difficulty swallowing when eating or drinking.
FIRST AID: If the foxtail is visible, you may pull it out by hand or with blunt tweezers. Feeding the dog bread may force the seed to move through the throat and into the stomach. In any case, see a vet for follow-up.
TREATMENT: The vet will anesthetize the dog and remove any foxtails.
Foxtails Under the Skin
RISKS: Infections, irritation, migration through the body; if it penetrates the body wall, it may injure a vital organ or cause secondary infection and abscesses.
SYMPTOMS: A hard bump or lump; may include a small hole in its center.
FIRST AID: None.
TREATMENT: The vet will surgically explore for the foxtail and remove it when found.
How to Tell if Your Dog Has a Foxtail in Their Ear
This is the most common entry point of foxtails in dogs, and below are some of the signs you may see.
Excessive head shaking
Pawing at their ear(s)
Whimpering and pulling away when you try to pet or touch their head
Redness and/or discharge coming from the ear
How to Tell If Your Dog Has a Foxtail in Their Paw
This is the second most common entry point.
Limping or excessive licking of paws
Swelling of the paw or a soft, swollen lump between the toes (the lump may rupture, oozing pus)
How to Tell If Your Dog Has a Foxtail in Their Nose or Has Inhaled One
Sneezing (see the video at the end of this article that shows how a foxtail in a dog's nose caused sneezing)
Sudden onset bad breath
Discharge from nose (may or may not be bloody)
How to Tell If Your Dog Has a Foxtail in Their Eye
Swollen, red, and/or irritated eye(s)
Pawing at eye, or dragging eye along the carpet or furniture
How to Tell If Your Dog Has a Foxtail in Their Genitalia
Excessive licking of genitals
Blood in urine
How to Tell If Your Dog Has an Infected Foxtail Injury
Lack of appetite
Rancid smell coming from a wound