Foxtail in Dog Ear: Quick Removal and Protection Tips

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Foxtail in Dog Ear

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Summer is arguably the best time of the year—you get to do all the outdoors things you love like camping, RVing, hiking, etc. Your kids love it and your pets live for it.

Nothing gets your dog more excited than playing in the tall grass with butterflies, squirrels, and other creatures.

But there is a downside: summer also brings with it the danger of foxtail.

Foxtail is a grass-like weed that is commonly found in the United States. Foxtails may just be a nuisance to humans but they are a health hazard to dogs.

The foxtail can enter the ear of the animal and then travel through the ear canal to the soft tissues and organs.

As a result of this burrowing nature of foxtail, it can cause irreparable harm to vital organs.

In this post, I will look at this subject in greater detail and offer some quick removal and protection tips to help you keep your furry friend safe.

Can Foxtails Kill Dogs?

Foxtail is a risky plant and it can result in the death of your dog.

Initially, the seed will just cause irritation which is anything but severe.

But the real danger is in the fact that the seeds are too tough to be broken down.

Foxtail seeds are also known to move forward relentlessly and if not removed in time, they can keep moving until they get to the internal organs, including the brain.

An embedded foxtail can lead to swelling, abscesses, discharge, pain, and death in severe cases.

Foxtail seeds will eventually lead to infection which if not treated can be fatal. 

How Do I Know If My Dog Has A Foxtail In His Ear?

Foxtails can easily burrow into your dog’s ears.

As dogs play around the bushes and stick their heads through tall grass, a foxtail can easily grab onto their ear and start moving inward.

 If the foxtail stuck in the ear recently, you might easily notice it with your naked eye.

However, foxtail seeds tend to move deeper into the ear and they could easily get buried so deep that they are no longer visible to the naked eye.

So, how do you know if your dog has a foxtail in its ear?

Well, there are a couple of signs and symptoms to look for, namely:

  • Your dog starts tilting and shaking his head. This is most likely because of the irritation that is being caused by the foxtail in his ear.
  • A sudden irritation in the ear. You can tell your dog has irritation in his ear if he starts to scratch the ear violently with his paw. At times, the dog might even resort to rubbing his ear on the ground in a bid to remove the foxtail that is causing the irritation.
  • Red and swollen ear. A foxtail seed can easily lead to an infection in the ear. In such a case, the ear will get swollen, red and it will be painful to touch.

How Do You Remove Foxtails From A Dog’s Ear?

Once you have identified that your dog has foxtails in his ear, you will want to remove them immediately.

If the seed is not burrowed into the ear, you can pull it out by hand or by using blunt tweezers. You can also use a damp Q-Tip to remove the seed.

However, you should only remove it yourself if you are absolutely sure it is not burrowed in the ear or you will risk pushing it further in.

Also, if the ear is already swollen and sore, you will want to see a vet immediately. That’s because a swollen and red ear indicates the foxtail is already burrowed deep and resulted in an infection.

You may therefore need a veterinary ophthalmologist to have a look at it.

Besides, the further the foxtail burrows in, the more painful and risky it will be to remove it, so you best leave it to the experts.

Foxtail Ear Protection for Dogs

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Prevention is always better than cure—and there are several measures you can take to protect your dog from foxtail.

First and foremost, remove any foxtail growing in your yard. This way, you can rest easy knowing your dog is safe as long as he is at home and only have to worry about foxtail when at the park or some other place away from home.

You might need more drastic measures if your dog will be running through tall grass. For instance, you can get your dog a field guard that is made of mesh.

The mesh goes over the head and is fastened at the collar and this will ensure your dog doesn’t get foxtail in its ear, mouth, eyes, or nose.

Granted, your dog may feel a bit restrained but it is a small price to pay to ensure his safety.

After spending time with your dog outdoors, make sure to give them an once-over to remove any foxtail that might have stuck on his fur.

If your dog has a long coat, you may want to use a fine-toothed comb to remove any foxtail in his fur.

You should also pay attention to his paws and genitalia to ensure that you have removed every foxtail. Otherwise, the dog might lick himself and get the seed in his ear.

How Much Does It Cost To Remove A Foxtail From A Dog Ear?

On average, it will cost anything from $150 – $450 to remove foxtail from your dog’s ears.

The exact cost will depend on how far the foxtail is lodged in the ear and whether or not surgery will be needed.

For the most part, the foxtail can be flushed out but surgery might be needed on some occasions.

Since foxtail tends to travel towards the tissue, the longer you wait to see a vet, the more money you will eventually spend.

For instance, a couple reportedly spent in excess of $6,000 on surgery and medication as the vets tried to locate the foxtail.

However, that is an extreme case as most dog owners successfully the foxtail for less than $450.

As a rule of thumb, always pay attention to tell-tale signs like the dog vigorously shaking his head and scratching his ear.

If you notice any of this, take your do go to the vet immediately before the problem gets worse.

Foxtail in Dog’s Ear Remedy

All kinds of remedies have been suggested for dealing with foxtail in your dog’s ear.

For instance, it is believed that cleaning the ear with corn oil can solve the issue in a jiffy.

Other people swear by flushing the foxtail out with water.

But these and most other remedies might do more harm than good.

There are only two viable solutions to foxtail in your dog’s ear:

  • If it is visible, get it out with your finger or with blunt tweezers. However, make sure you have gotten all of it out because even a small piece that breaks off can wreak havoc.
  • Secondly, take your dog to the vet. There is always a good chance you will not see all the foxtails that might be lodged in the ear. Let the vet look at your dog and get out all the foxtails from the ear.

Parting Thoughts

Foxtail might seem small and negligible but they are not.

If the barbed seed heads of the plant get into the ear of your dog, you should have them removed immediately.

If you ignore them, they will keep moving towards and soft tissue and organs and before you know it, you will have a full-blown health emergency that could have been avoided.

You can take precautionary measures in summer like watching where your dog plays, ridding your lawn of foxtail, and using a comb to remove the foxtail especially on breeds like golden retrievers who have a huge coat.

When it comes to Foxtail, you can never be too careful because the weed could easily kill your dog.

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Sable M. is a canine chef, professional pet blogger, and proud owner of two male dogs. I have been an animal lover all my life, with dogs holding a special place in my heart. Initially, I created this blog to share recipes, tips, and any relevant information on healthy homemade dog treats. But because of my unrelenting passion to make a difference in the world of dogs, I have expanded the blog’s scope to include the best information and recommendations about everything dog lovers need to know about their canine friends’ health and wellbeing. My mission now is to find the most helpful content on anything related to dogs and share it with fellow hardworking hound lovers. While everything I share is in line with the latest evidence-based veterinarian health guidelines, nothing should be construed as veterinary advice. Please contact your vet in all matters regarding your Fido’s health.