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Dear AKC: Our ten month old Lab has gotten foxtails up her nose twice in less than two weeks. The first time our family vet couldn't reach it and she had to go to a specialist with a large vet bill. The second time our vet was able to remove three, inch-long foxtails but yet another vet bill. I've had dogs suffer from this before but we live in the country and although we keep our weeds trimmed, it is impossible to eliminate all of the foxtails. Any helpful hints for either preventing or treating this would be great. The season in California is just getting going. Thank you very much. — Snout Sneezing Seedlings

Dear Snout: Foxtails can be very painful to dogs as these dried grass seedlings with little barbs on them can get in an animal's nose, mouth, ears or even under the skin and cause real problems. Like you said, trimming weeds and keeping the dog away from them are the common sense approaches however you can't always be right there. As far as prevention, I did see a patent-pending inhalation net for dogs which sounded intriguing but is not yet a product. Others recommend dripping olive oil or mineral oil up the nose to soften them hoping the foxtails will pass through to the dog's mouth. Going to the vet for removal is still the safest option.

Use Horse Sense 

Your best bet would be prevention. As a long-time horse person I have used fly masks on my horses for decades to keep bugs out of their face. They are a fine nylon mesh, cover the ears and head with a large opening for the muzzle and are easily secured with a Velcro closure under the cheeks. You might try to find a smaller size to fit your dog and then sew the muzzle opening shut. This alteration would fit around the dog's whole head, but would allow him to see and be protected from any foxtails getting in the ears, nose or mouth. It might look weird and it may take your dog some getting used to, but would also save him from great discomfort and you from expensive vet bills should his snout find a flurry of foxtails. Worth a try! Let me know if it works out.
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