Steer Clear of Long Grass Meadows When Walking Your Dog - Foxtail Grass Seed Warning

Sean McCormack, Head Vet at, has explained exactly what foxtail grass seed is, how to spot it this summer and how it can be dangerous to your dog.


Foxtail Grass Seed Warning



What is Foxtail grass seed?
“Foxtail come from a small type of grass that grow in open spaces across the UK. The seeds are long grass stalks with tube-like spikey heads, which look somewhat like a fox tail.

“They can grow up to a metre in height, and tend to be found in meadows, as well as paths, and boggy areas, meaning they can be a danger to your dog whenever you are out and about exploring this summer.”

Why is it dangerous to dogs 

“As we spend time outdoors with our canine companions, it is important that pet parents are aware of the dangers foxtail grass seed can pose to dogs.

“While the long stalks of grass may not look like a threat to our canines, its spiky hairs that sit at the top of stems are actually incredibly sharp meaning that if your dog comes into contact with it, it can pierce or scratch their skin or become embedded in their paws. This includes getting lodged between their claws, toes or between their paw pad and skin, which can be really painful for your furry friend.

“Foxtail grass seed can also end up lodged in your dog's ear canals. Some breeds may be at more of a risk for this than others such as those with drooping ears because the type of fur on their ears tends to catch foxtail grass seed more easily.

“Your dog may also inhale foxtail grass seeds, while exploring or sniffing during a walk. While it might not be poisonous to your dog directly it doesn’t mean it isn’t deadly to your pet, in fact, the seeds don’t break down inside your dog's body well and may lead to serious infection or death if they are consumed and left untreated.”

What are the symptoms to look for, if your dog has come into contact with it?
“Though foxtail grass seeds may look harmless enough, it can cause your dog severe injury. So, if you think your dog might have come into contact with it this summer there are a few telltale signs to look for that could indicate that they have embedded foxtails on them:

  • Swelling - As foxtail seeds often fall off of their stem, it is easy for them to get caught up in your dog's paws or embedded between their pads when you are out walking. If you notice that your dog is constantly licking an area of their paws they don’t normally, they are limping or swollen make sure to check for foxtails.

  • Tilting their head or constantly scratching their ears - Though a foxtail seed may not be directly visible to you, it may be deep in their ear canal and causing your dog a lot of discomfort. Signs of this to look for include your canine tilting or shaking their head or scratching their ear incessantly. 

  • Lumps on their skin that are painful - A more physical symptom to look out for on your dog, is lumps on the skin that are extremely painful to the touch - your dog cringes or barks when you try to touch it. 

  • Swelling, discharge or redness around the eyes - If a foxtail has come into contact with your dog’s eyes, you may notice redness, or swelling around the eye area or discharge, you might also notice them pawing at their eye. If you suspect this is the case contact your vet immediately as a foxtail lodged in your dog's eye can be extremely serious. 

  • Lack of appetite or seeming lethargic -Another sign to look out for is if your dog seems more lethargic than usual or they are struggling to eat when normally they chomp down their food at meal times. It could be the case that they have inhaled a foxtail by mistake and it is hurting their insides. 

If you are worried your dog is displaying any of these signs or symptoms make sure to contact your vet so they can offer any advice or assistance.

How can you prevent foxtail grass seed problems in the future?

  • Keep away from long grassy areas on walks 

  • Regularly examine your dog's fur and coat during foxtail season - especially if you have been around any of the plants. 

  • Be vigilant for foxtail grass seed blooms, know what they look like and make sure to keep your dog away from them wherever possible to avoid any problems. 

  • Make sure to remove any foxtails you can get to yourself using tweezers. Once foxtail grass seeds get caught up in your dog's fur they will either need removing by yourself or a vet - they won’t just come out on their own and can burrow into all parts of your dog's body.