Excuse Me. Is That a Foxtail in Your Dog’s Ear?

Dog with Ear InfectionHas your dog been scratching her ears or shaking her head? Are her ears red and inflamed or have a bad odor? Perhaps she’s also showing lack of coordination or balance problems. It could mean she has an ear infection.

Ear infections are common this time of year, and we at Powell Veterinary Service are seeing quite a few cases. Many ear infections are due to foreign bodies such as foxtails, arrow grass, or plant awns—all the little sharp grasses that stick to your clothing and your dog’s fur. These nuisances can get into your pup’s ears and work their way down deep where they are difficult to remove. They cause irritation, which causes your furry friend to scratch and rub on the ear. This can cause open sores that allow bacteria and yeast to grow, causing an ear infection. Environmental or food allergies and damp ears can also cause ear infections.

So What Do You Do?

If you notice your dog incessantly scratching her ears, take a look. Are they red and inflamed? Is there a discharge or dark, crusty scabs? If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to consult your veterinarian promptly. A foreign body or infection can penetrate or spread to the middle and inner ear causing damage to the ear canal and ear drum, causing hearing and equilibrium problems


Your veterinarian will take a look deep into your pup’s ear’s to see what might be causing her problems. If it’s an embedded foxtail or grass awn, it will need to be removed—sometimes requiring sedation. The doctor may also take a swab of the infected ear to determine the microorganism causing the infection so it can be treated appropriately. He or she will likely thoroughly clean the ear and send you home with cleaning materials and antibiotics.


If you live in an area with lots of weeds and tall grasses or frequently visit them on your outings with you dog, it will be difficult to prevent contact with foxtails and other sharp grasses. But you CAN reduce the likelihood that the grass will cause an infection. After every outing, check your furry friend thoroughly for foxtails and other sharp grasses. If they are in the outer ear canal or ear flap and easily removed without getting into the ear, carefully remove it. If it is deep in the ear canal, Do Not try to remove it yourself, as you can push it deeper into the ear canal and perhaps rupture the ear drum.  And don’t forget to check her body, tail, belly and between her toes, as foxtails can bury themselves most anywhere and cause problems.

Summer may be ear infection season, but that doesn’t mean your pup has to suffer. If you notice your dog scratching her ears constantly or shaking her head a lot, give Powell Veterinary Service a call at 970-352-9164. We’ll uncover the problem and provide the appropriate remedy.