Foxtails: Blessing or Curse?

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foxtailI was reading an article the other day about foxtails and the dangers they pose to our pets. We live in an area where there are a LOT of foxtails – on almost every trail we take Jack & Maggie they are growing wild alongside the trail. Once they start to dry, they can become very dangerous as the pod or ‘awn’ as it is called easily attaches itself to the dog’s hair and because they are barbed, they eventually can work their way into crevices or they may be inhaled or even swallowed. I’m sure you all recognize foxtails. When I was looking on the web for a some photos to share I saw some really scary pictures of dogs being almost infested with them and causing considerable damage. It’s a real safety issue for our dogs.

It’s important to be aware and thoroughly check and groom your dog if they’ve been running or hiking in an area with foxtails as they can be very dangerous. Check their ears, between the toes, under their tail. Depending on the color of your dog, they can be hard to see, so run your hands over your dog as well.
But for all that warning, I am thankful to foxtails. Why would I be thankful for something that’s dangerous you ask? Well, foxtails played an integral part in the rescue of our dog Tino and his brother Bernie.

We had been trying to rescue these two dogs for four days from a wildlife area in Los Angeles. We weren’t having very much luck convincing them we meant only safety and not harm, so they were very wily at taking our treats, but eluding our capture.
On our fourth attempt, we drove up to the lot where we usually found them and were scanning the tree line looking for them. We quickly spotted Bernie lying in the grass with Tino hovering nearby. When we approached, they scampered off, but we immediately saw Bernie’s foot was swollen, he could not bear any weight on it and was in obvious pain. He was not able to run away from us, so we were able to capture him and place him gently in our SUV.
While Tino still wanted no part of us, he wasn’t about to leave the area when we had his brother. It took us another couple of hours and a few more people helping out, but we eventually caught Tino too.
Turned out, yes, Bernie had a foxtail in between his toes which had caused the swelling and rendered him incapacitated enough that we could catch him. Without it, we probably wouldn’t have been able to and may eventually have given up trying to rescue them. Seeing as they both had distemper and without our medical intervention they would have both died a slow, painful death from the disease, we truly rescued them from death’s door.
So, say what you will about foxtails, they usually are a curse, but for Bernie & Tino – they were a blessing. I’m grateful for them for giving us Tino for 13 years and allowing us to give Bernie a few weeks in a loving home and a peaceful journey to his next adventure. (We euthanized Bernie about four weeks after the rescue when he developed seizures from the distemper.)


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  1. It’s funny how a curse can be a blessing… So sorry about Bernie’s short life but glad about Tino.

    We once had a Lab get an intestinal obstruction from swallowing something he shouldn’t have. It seemed horrible – until they discovered early cancer when they did surgery on him. They removed all the cancer, and he gained a few more years of life! It’s a similar type of situation.
    KB recently posted…Wordless Wednesday with a MysteryMy Profile

  2. Thanks so much for joining the hop. Ah Foxtails. I am glad there is a good news story about them, but for the most part, we think of them as a curse. Once they start to dry around here, we avoid those areas if possible. I have heard that they are pretty bad in California compared to here. Too bad about Bernie.
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…Thursday Barks And Bytes–Clean Up CrewMy Profile

    • They are pretty bad – and especially in the areas we walk since it’s kind of rural farming country – lots of foxtails. I have an easy time with Maggie because she’s black, but they are impossible to see on Jack.
      mkob recently posted…Foxtails: Blessing or Curse?My Profile

  3. Yikes, they sound painful! I get burrs all the time, but never had a foxtail. Interesting post, never knew all that about Foxtails!
    Emma recently posted…Barkworthy Items | GBGV | Barks and BytesMy Profile

    • They are – the ends are like little needles, so the easily get stuck and then work into the skin – OUCH!
      mkob recently posted…Foxtails: Blessing or Curse?My Profile

  4. Great post Slim, we only encounter them when we travel to Charleston during the summer and hang out at the beach. It’s something I have to watch closely with Leo. Definitely a timely reminder for everyone. I will certainly share. Thanks

    • Thanks. With the doodles long hair, they would be a real problem to detect. Be careful!
      mkob recently posted…Foxtails: Blessing or Curse?My Profile

  5. I know that I’ve seen foxtails, but not recently. We mostly see sap from our trees gunking up our dogs hair and there’s another plant that we have to clean out of their hair. This post will help me be a little more vigilant. It may not be a foxtail, but it could pose a problem.

    Thanks for sharing the story about your rescue. I’ve often wondered what we would do in a similar situation. I’m thankful for local friends in rescue who can guide us.
    Kimberly Gauthier recently posted…Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth, Flea Killer We Can EatMy Profile

    • Rescuing Tino & Bernie was probably one of the more rewarding things I’ve done – especially knowing how sick they were and what would have happened to them. It’s a shame there are so many dogs in their situation. This was many years ago, but folks at the nature area where we rescued them said there were many dogs abandoned there all the time. Most probably get taken care of by the coyotes. Tino & Bernie were lucky they survived there as long as they did – I think it was because they were brothers and looked out for each other.
      mkob recently posted…Foxtails: Blessing or Curse?My Profile

  6. Easy had a part of that foxtail between the nail and the cuticle last year. It started with a blistering ointment and ended with surgery. In your case it was helpful for Bernie and Tino, I agree, but we better avoid areas with foxtails now.
    Easy Rider recently posted…easyblog MISCHIEF MOANDAYMy Profile

  7. Wow, I did not know that about foxtails and I’m not sure we have them around here.

    That was a beautiful story about Tino and Bernie and I’m sorry that Bernie did not make it, but I’m glad he had some time with you where he felt loved and cared for. That must have been so hard for you.

    Thanks for joining the blog hop, great contribution!
    Jodi recently posted…I Always Feel Better After I Talk to MY VetMy Profile

    • It was hard, but I knew that at least he went peacefully and had a high old time living large the few weeks we had him.
      mkob recently posted…Foxtails: Blessing or Curse?My Profile

  8. Foxtails are scary! I also did a post which included that danger a few weeks back. The things they can do to our pets are definitely not something anyone wants to have happen!
    Enjoy your day!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…Walk your dogs on Thoughtless ThursdayMy Profile

  9. We have a couple of pod plants that we have to constantly clean out of the dogs. Foxtail isn’t our main issue, but there are plenty of other challenges.
    Bailey recently posted…Mary Had A Little Lamb and We Can Show You the SchoolMy Profile

  10. Oh foxtails, working in a vet’s office I saw some really bad instances where they lodged in toes, ears, even an eye. I think the worst was when one made it into a lung and caused a massive infection. All very icky. Luckily we’ve only had one run-in with them, Dottie got one in her nose and we got it out before it got any further!
    Emily recently posted…Wordless WednesdayMy Profile

  11. Great story but we still think they are evil. We fight them even in our own yard.
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  12. I’m not aware that we have foxtails around here, at least not that I know of. Because of the ticks we tend to avoid any thick brush or growth anyway.
    It’s always encouraging in life when something good can come out of something bad. I am sorry about Bernie, but so happy you were able to rescue them both, he didn’t have to suffer, and Tino had such a good long life with you.
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    • That’s exactly how I fell. He was a sweet boy and had a really happy (and safe) few weeks with us.
      mkob recently posted…Foxtails: Blessing or Curse?My Profile

  13. Foxtails scare me! What an interesting story, and I’m so glad you were able to catch Tino and Bernie, thanks to those nasty foxtails. Like the others, I was sad to hear about Bernie, but I know you gave him lots of love in those last four weeks.
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  14. So pretty but so damaging. What a story about how the foxtails got you tyoue tino.
    joann stancer recently posted…Thursday Barks And Bytes~HomeAway™ Travel Organizer KitMy Profile

  15. Well, there is an exception to every rule, right? Foxtails suck! Except that one singular time when they didn’t. Just proves the rule, though.
    Jana Rade recently posted…When Do I Use Heat versus Cold? : A Tale (or Tail) Of Two Temps! (Part II)My Profile

  16. Bernie and Tito’s is such a bittersweet story. So glad you were able to rescue them. Absolutely hate foxtails!
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