The Dangers of Foxtails (burrs)

The Doctors Book of Home Remedies for Dogs and Cats by the editors of Prevention Magazine. Page 102

BURRS......(see foxtails below)

"....Burrs are the rough, prickly seedcases of certain plants, and they seem to leap out whenever your pet passes by. Depending on where they lodge, burrs can cause matting, skin irritation or infection. What's more, they can be as hard to get out as chewing gum.

....Burrs can stick in the darndest places, so you'll want to inspect your pet for these hidden prickly pains...Check between all the toes, on top of the feet, around the testicles and in the armpits - just about anyplace there's a little crevice.

...Once burrs get snalred in the pet's coat, be sure to remove them before the animal manages to get wet. The tangled hair around the burr will shrink like a wool sweater after it gets wet, and you'll have an extra hard time trying to get the burr out.

...It's really important to get the burrs out as soon as you can and don't dig in and create mats and irritations. If the burr has only recently lodged, you may be abloe to remove it with just your fingers or a pair of tweezers. If it's been there longer, however, it may be tangled inside a hair mat. To undo the mat, pull it apart with your fingers little by little, working from the end of the hairs down toward the roots. AFter you get the burr out, run a comb or brush through the hair to really smooth things out.

...When a burr is really tangled, applying a little vegetable oil will help get it loose. A spritz of detangling spray, availiable at pet stores, can also help. (Detangling sprays for cats must be feline-friendly.)

...If you have trouble removing the burrs with your fingerts, try cutting them out - BUT - use blunt-tipped scissors and cut perpendicular to the mat, not parallel to it. Be sure you are cutting hair and not skin.

...Removing burrs can be a time-consuming and sometimes painful process. Work for only ten minutes at a time and then praise your pet and reward him with a toy or treat, take a break, and then go back to work.

...Keeping your pet's coat trimmed won't prevent burrs from sticking, but it will make them easier to remove. The one sure way to avoid burrs is to stay away from infested areas.


Unlike burrs, which stop at the hair, foxtails can puncture skin in a matter of hours. In some cases they travel all the way through a pet's body, tearing tissue as they go.

In extreme cases, foxtails have been known to puncture organs, including the brain. More commonly, they stick between the toes or lodge in the ears or nose, where they can cause a painful abscess.

The best policy is to avoid foxtails completely, but if you can't do that, check your pet thoroughly and keep his coat short during foxtail season [dry season].

Inspect carefully the entire body, including between the toes, and around body openings after outdoor exercise. If you find even the smallest piece of a foxtail, be sure to remove it completely or it may migrate inward.

If your pet has been playing in a foxtail infested area and begins sneezing, pawing at his eyes or shaking or tilting his head, he could have a foxtail embedded in a dangerous place. You will need to call the vet right away.