Just what we needed, something else to worry about... Am I the only pet owner in the Hudson Valley who hasn't heard of Foxtail plants before? I almost wish I hadn't, but the dangers they pose to animals - especially dogs - is serious.

There are three "problematic" species of foxtail that grow in New York state, and not only can they cause serious medical issues in domestic pets and farm animals, but many interfere with crop growth as well. Here's what to watch out for the next time you take a stroll in the long grass with your furry friend.

Prasenjit Kar via Canva
Prasenjit Kar via Canva

Foxtail Plants in New York

Foxtails get their name for a very clear reason (just check out the shape of their seed heads), but their danger is less obvious. The secret lies in their bristled seeds (below), which can find their way into the most unwelcome places, causing everything from discomfort to death.

kaiooooooooooooo via Canva
kaiooooooooooooo via Canva

Foxtail Plants' Danger to Animals in New York

In farm animals, Cornell University warns that the spiky seeds often can cause "serious" mouth ulcers when they get stuck in gums or on tongues of cows or horses. Veterinarians caution that for smaller animals like cats and dogs, these seeds can wreak havoc internally as well.

The danger of foxtails goes beyond simple irritation. Because these tough seeds don't break down inside the body, an embedded foxtail can lead to serious infection for your dog. It can even lead to death if left untreated.

Animals Most Threatened by Foxtails

Animals with longer (and curlier) hair, as well as longer ears, are more likely to attract foxtail seeds, as they have something for the barbs to more easily "grab". In addition to brushing their coat, problem areas to check after a walk include your pet's mouth, gums, eyes, ears, and between their paw pads.

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What To Do if You Find a Foxtail Seed

If you discover a seed already embedded in your pet's skin that is difficult to remove, it's time to visit the veterinarian. As experts warn, "foxtails won't come out on their own, and they can burrow into the brain, spine, eardrums, lungs" and more. Luckily, you can mitigate most risks by keeping your animals out of long grasses and (obviously) not planting foxtails on your property. Keep clear of the plants below, too.

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