Foxtails and Dogs’ Ears Don’t Mix
Removal of the foxtail will give a dog immediate relief.
Jon Geller, DVM
Q. How do they keep foxtails out of the ears and noses of hunting and working dogs?
A. The most common place for these seeds to land is in the ears, but they can also end up in a dog’s nose. The signs of a foxtail or goat head in the ear are pretty: Most dogs obsessively shake their heads and scratch at their ears. The other possibility for these kinds of signs is an ear infection, so a veterinarian must sort these out.
A dog suspected of having a foreign body in the ear or in the nose usually must be sedated for a thorough exam and potential removal. For the ears, a long instrument with a small grasping forceps on the end is passed down the ear canal. Once the awn or burr is seen, it is grasped and gently removed from the ear, using a magnifying scope to help see the object.
This procedure is not without risk, and occasionally the grasping forceps can pinch some of the ear drum (tympanic membrane). Afterwards, some dogs may show signs of difficulty balancing if their tympanic membrane has been damaged, but it will heal with time.
Foreign objects like foxtails in the nose cause repeated sneezing and occasionally a bloody nose. After sedation, some kind of scope of rubber tubing should be passed through the nasal passages to push out any object that could be lodged there. Just as with the ear canals, it is possible to cause some additional trauma, but the slight risk is more than balanced with the benefit of a dog that is much, much happier.
If you have a dog who is constantly getting foxtails in his ears, consider putting a cotton ball in each ear before heading out into fields. Just remember to remove them when you get back home.
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