Staying Healthy

Treating Foxtail Weed: A Grass That Can Seriously Harm Your Dog

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by Chris Jackson

According to a 2018 study by the APPA (American Pet Products Association) over 85 million American families own a pet. And all of you dog lovers won’t be surprised to know that 60 million of those pets are dogs.


Sorry cat lovers… but the truth is that a dog is a human’s best friend.

However, if I am being honest, I never had dogs or pets until my wife convinced me to get a puppy.

Which is where my story begins.

This is the story of my dog, Goose the Labradoodle, getting Foxtail Weed lodged in his paw causing an infection.

Hopefully after reading this story, other dog owners will know how to spot, remove, and treat infection from foxtail weed which is commonly found lodged in dog paws and other orifices.

Our First Dog

I remember how my wife convinced me to get our first dog, a Labradoodle named Goose.

She asked me if I would review her business PowerPoint presentation. Upon review I found one slide with a picture of a labradoodle and the text next to his mouth saying “Woof”. At first, I said heck no, we travel way too much to have a dog.

Before bedtime, I had agreed to get the dog.

Fast forward to today and we have two Labradoodles, Maverick and Goose.

Foxtail Grass Creates Thorns and Infection

Foxtail grass, or barley, is very common in Northern California and mainly the western parts of the United States. You’ve probably seen it and didn’t know what it was called, it looks like barbed barley or wheat. Here is a photo of it.


It may look harmless, but to our fur babies it is actually quite a problem and can be harmful. In fact it even sometimes has poisonous properties and in certain cases can even lead to death according to WebMD.

Our vet informed us that he has pulled foxtail weed out of every orifice of a dog including the ears, nose, and throat. The barbed property of this grass makes it a thorn.

The problem with this plant is its structure, as you can see it has dozens of thorny stems that tend to penetrate dogs paws and orifices and often times get lodged leading to nasty infections.

This is exactly what happened to Goose leading to an abscess in his paw.

While on a vacation in Mendocino, CA Goose ran through some Foxtail barley grass and got a piece lodged in his paw. Within a day or so he had an infection and a limp.


As soon as I noticed his condition, I thought he had either a sprained ankle or perhaps even a broken bone around his paw. He continuously licked his paw until after about two days I noticed his paw was bleeding. This was an obvious sign that he was in pain and had an issue in his paw.

I immediately scheduled a visit to the local vet clinic thinking he may need surgery or something serious.

Going to the Vet to Get Diagnosed

It only took the Veterinarian and the team of Vet Technicians about 5 minutes to identify the issue. Goose did not have any broken bones or muscle sprains, but the actual diagnoses was an abscess that had begun to discharge.

In other words, Goose had an infection in his paw that stemmed from a piece of foxtail grass that had lodged itself underneath his skin.


I was chatting with one of the technicians about “Veterinary Technician Week”, which was going on at the time of this event, when I received the good news that Goose did not require any serious surgery. By the way it isn’t too late to hug a vet tech the next time you visit your vet, after all these folks really do take amazing care of our loved ones. It was amazing to see how much these folks genuinely care.

In the waiting room the veterinary technician appeared to be the dog whisperer, naturally calming Goose and making an immediate connection with him through talking with him.

Goose hadn’t let me touch his paw for 3 days but somehow the vet tech was able to touch and examine his paw within minutes without any hesitation from Goose. It was amazing to see the training and talent that the vet staff had to deal with an injured pup.

Key Takeaways for Dealing with Foxtail Grass

Below are the key takeaways I learned from my experience taking Goose to the vet to treat his Foxtail abscess.

  • If possible, avoid letting your dog run through foxtail grass now that you know how to identify it
  • Pay attention to your dog constantly licking his paws, bleeding, or developing a limp
  • Schedule a vet visit as soon as possible because these abscesses can lead to very dangerous infections and many times vets are overbooked and cannot see you right away

I hope my experience dealing with foxtail helps other dog owners save their pups from pain and suffering.

About the Author: Chris Jackson is an editor for and loves writing about his two dogs Goose and Maverick as well as anything related to animal care and veterinarians.

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