Wild Foxtail Grass

Know the dangers of wild grass seeds

Predominantly dangerous are the foxtails which are common in the west and midwest, but also found throughout the US in both fields and coastal grounds.  Other various field grasses such as, cheatgrass, ripgut brome and Canada wild rye (found in the US) can be just as painful and sometimes fatal.  These plants have barbed seeds which are easily dislodged on contact. 

The reason they're so dangerous is because they penetrate the skin and become lodged in paws, ears, tummies or even cause internal damage from working their way through the skin.  Due to the shape of the seed the slightest movement will cause it to dig deeper.  The fanned edge will push the pointed end into your dog's skin or ears causing incredible pain, infection, permanent damage, or in some cases fatality.

Close-up of Seed

Removed from ear

If you've had a romp in the field or been near these plants with your dog, please do a thorough check afterwards.  Check everything and if you're unable to safely remove it, please see a vet immediately.  Check your dog to notice:

  • Coat - caught in fur and may move towards the skin and penetrate
  • Skin - chewing on the skin, redness and swelling, a visible seed, abscesses or open-draining sores
  • Eyes - excessive tearing, discharge, rubbing which could lead to loss of the eye if not quickly removed
  • Ears - head shaking, tilting of the head, redness, scratching which could cause infection, hearing loss or ruptured drums
  • Nose - excessive sneezing, pawing of the nose, discharge, breathing difficulties could lead to lung infection or internal damage
  • Mouth - coughing, retching, difficulty eating or drinking and may need surgical treatment
  • Paws - excessive licking, redness & swelling, or limping may need surgical removal of the foreign object
  • Genitals - excessive licking, redness & swelling, painful urination, blood in urine could lead to permanent damage or surgery

Left untreated for long, your dog may show signs of illness from the bacteria of these plants which leads to grass awn disease.  The disease is hard to diagnose so if you notice a sudden illness afterwards it's best to let your vet know you've been in contact with barbed seed grasses.

It's best to leave the removal to a trained professional. If you do safely remove and embedded grass seed, wash the area, apply an antiseptic, an antibiotic (such as Neosporin) and follow up with your vet.  If swelling does not subside or your dog is vomiting please see a vet immediately. 

For best advice, keep your dog out of all overgrown grasses, groom often and check your dog after every outing.