Can Foxtail Kill Horses?

Foxtail grass is a common plant that can pose a serious threat to horses. The barbed seed heads of foxtail grass can become embedded in a horse’s skin, ears, nasal passages, and eyes, causing painful infections and even death if not promptly addressed. Horses are particularly vulnerable to foxtails due to their grazing behavior and the anatomy of their heads. It is essential for horse owners to be aware of the potential dangers of foxtail grass and take necessary precautions to ensure the safety of their animals.

can foxtail kill horses

Recognizing Foxtail: Identifying the Threat to Your Horses

Foxtail is a common weed that poses a serious threat to the health of horses. This grass-like plant produces seed heads that resemble the tail of a fox, hence the name foxtail. While it may seem harmless, foxtail can cause significant harm to your horses if ingested. In this section, we will discuss how to recognize foxtail and identify the potential threat it poses to your equine companions.

1. Appearance of Foxtail

Foxtail plants typically grow in clumps and can reach heights of up to three feet. The seed heads are long and bristly, with a distinctive shape that resembles the tail of a fox. The seeds are encased in sharp, barbed bristles that can easily attach to animal fur or clothing. These seeds are the main cause of concern when it comes to horses, as they can become embedded in various parts of the body.

2. Common Areas where Foxtail Grows

Foxtail is a hardy weed that can thrive in a variety of environments, including pastures, meadows, and even along roadsides. It tends to prefer areas with dry, sandy soil and is commonly found in temperate regions. It is important to regularly inspect pastures and grazing areas for the presence of foxtail and take necessary measures to control its growth.

3. Potential Dangers for Horses

When horses come into contact with foxtail, the sharp bristles of the seed heads can easily attach to their fur, manes, or tails. This can lead to serious health issues if the seeds make their way into the horse’s body. Foxtail seeds can become lodged in the ears, eyes, nose, throat, or even penetrate the skin. Ingesting or inhaling foxtail seeds can cause a range of problems, including infections, abscesses, and even internal organ damage.

4. Signs of Foxtail Infestation

It is crucial for horse owners to be vigilant and watch for signs of foxtail infestation. Some common symptoms include excessive itching, rubbing or scratching, redness, swelling, discharge, or pain in affected areas. Horses may also exhibit signs of discomfort, such as head shaking, sneezing, coughing, or difficulty swallowing. If you notice any of these signs, it is important to consult a veterinarian immediately for proper diagnosis and treatment.

5. Prevention and Control Methods

Prevention is key when it comes to foxtail infestations. Regularly inspecting your pastures and grazing areas for the presence of foxtail is essential. If you find any foxtail plants, it is important to remove them promptly to prevent their spread. Mowing or grazing can help control the growth of foxtail, but it is important to be cautious as mowing can also spread the seeds.

Additionally, keeping your horses groomed and their coats well-maintained can help reduce the risk of foxtail attachment. Regularly checking your horse’s ears, eyes, nose, mouth, and skin for any signs of foxtail can also prevent potential health issues.


Foxtail is a weed that poses a threat to the health of horses. Recognizing foxtail and understanding its potential dangers is crucial for horse owners. By being aware of its appearance, common areas of growth, and the signs of infestation, you can take proactive measures to prevent your horses from coming into contact with foxtail. Regular inspection, grooming, and prompt removal of any foxtail plants are essential in mitigating the risk and ensuring the well-being of your equine companions.

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Preventive Measures: How to Protect Your Horses from Foxtail

Foxtail is a common grass weed that can pose a significant threat to the health and well-being of your horses. The sharp, pointed seed heads of foxtail can become embedded in your horse’s skin, eyes, ears, and even internal organs, leading to painful injuries and potential infections. To ensure the safety of your horses, it is essential to take preventive measures to protect them from foxtail.

1. Pasture Management

A well-maintained pasture is the first line of defense against foxtail infestation. Regularly inspect your pastures for any signs of foxtail growth. If you notice any foxtail plants, remove them immediately to prevent further spread. Additionally, maintaining healthy grass growth by proper fertilization, mowing, and irrigation can help to suppress the growth of foxtail and other weed species.

2. Proper Grazing Techniques

The way your horses graze can also play a role in their exposure to foxtail. Implement rotational grazing practices to prevent overgrazing in specific areas, as foxtail tends to thrive in areas with sparse vegetation. This will encourage a more uniform distribution of grass growth and reduce the risk of foxtail infestation. Additionally, avoid grazing horses in areas with a high concentration of foxtail plants.

3. Regular Inspections

Frequent inspections of your horses’ coat, mane, tail, and hooves are crucial in detecting any foxtail seeds that may have become lodged in their fur or skin. Run your hands carefully over their body, paying attention to particularly sensitive areas such as the ears, nostrils, and eyes. If you find any foxtail seeds, remove them promptly to prevent potential injuries and infections.

4. Proper Grooming

Grooming your horses regularly can help to prevent foxtail seeds from becoming embedded in their coat. Brushing their mane, tail, and body will help to dislodge any seeds that may have attached to their fur. Be sure to use a comb or brush specifically designed for equine grooming to ensure thorough removal.

5. Feed Management

When feeding your horses, take precautions to minimize the risk of foxtail ingestion. Ensure that the hay and feed you provide are free from foxtail contamination. Inspect the hay for any signs of foxtail seed heads and remove them before feeding to your horses. Additionally, avoid feeding horses in areas where there is a high concentration of foxtail plants.

6. Veterinary Care

Regular visits to your veterinarian are essential to maintaining the health and well-being of your horses. During these visits, discuss any concerns you may have regarding foxtail exposure and seek professional advice on preventive measures specific to your horses’ needs. Your veterinarian may recommend additional precautions or treatments to mitigate the risk of foxtail-related injuries.

7. Education and Awareness

Stay informed about foxtail and its potential dangers to your horses. Educate yourself and your staff on the identification and removal of foxtail plants. Regularly update your knowledge on the latest preventive measures and share this information with other horse owners in your community. By spreading awareness, you can collectively work towards protecting horses from the harmful effects of foxtail.

In summary, protecting your horses from foxtail requires a proactive approach that includes pasture management, proper grazing techniques, regular inspections, grooming, feed management, veterinary care, and education. By implementing these preventive measures, you can significantly reduce the risk of foxtail-related injuries and ensure the safety and well-being of your beloved horses.

Treatment Options: Dealing with Foxtail Poisoning in Horses

Foxtail poisoning in horses can be a serious condition that requires prompt treatment. When a horse ingests foxtails, they can cause a range of symptoms including weight loss, colic, lameness, and even organ failure. If you suspect that your horse has ingested foxtails, it is crucial to seek veterinary assistance immediately. In this section, we will explore the different treatment options available for dealing with foxtail poisoning in horses.

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1. Veterinary Evaluation

The first step in treating foxtail poisoning in horses is to have a thorough veterinary evaluation. The vet will conduct a physical examination and may order additional diagnostic tests such as blood work or imaging to assess the extent of the poisoning and to rule out any other underlying conditions.

2. Removal of Foxtails

One of the primary treatment methods for foxtail poisoning is the removal of foxtails from the horse’s body. This involves carefully searching the horse’s coat, mane, tail, ears, and hooves for any visible foxtails and removing them with tweezers or forceps. It is important to note that removing foxtails should only be done by a trained professional or under the supervision of a veterinarian to prevent further harm to the horse.

3. Supportive Care

In cases of severe foxtail poisoning, horses may require supportive care to manage their symptoms and aid in their recovery. This may include intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration, pain medication to alleviate discomfort, and anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce inflammation. Additionally, the vet may recommend the use of topical ointments or antibiotics to prevent infection in areas where foxtails have penetrated the skin.

4. Dietary Management

Proper dietary management is crucial when dealing with foxtail poisoning in horses. The vet may recommend changes to the horse’s diet to support their recovery and prevent further complications. This may include feeding a diet high in fiber to promote healthy digestion, providing supplements to support organ function, and monitoring the horse’s weight closely to ensure they are gaining back any lost weight.

5. Preventive Measures

Prevention is always better than cure when it comes to foxtail poisoning in horses. Taking preventive measures can help reduce the risk of foxtail ingestion. This includes maintaining clean pastures and regularly inspecting the horse’s environment for any presence of foxtails. If foxtails are detected, they should be promptly removed to prevent ingestion by the horse.

6. Follow-up Care

After the initial treatment, it is crucial to follow up with the veterinarian for ongoing care and monitoring. The vet may recommend regular check-ups, additional diagnostic tests, or adjustments to the horse’s treatment plan based on their progress. Regular communication with the vet is essential to ensure the horse’s full recovery.

In summary, foxtail poisoning in horses can be a serious condition that requires immediate treatment. Veterinary evaluation, removal of foxtails, supportive care, dietary management, preventive measures, and follow-up care are all essential components of the treatment plan. If you suspect that your horse has ingested foxtails, do not delay in seeking veterinary assistance to ensure the best possible outcome for your horse’s health.

Staying Vigilant: Regular Monitoring and Maintenance to Keep Your Horses Safe from Foxtail

Horses are incredible creatures that require proper care and attention to thrive. As a responsible horse owner, it is your duty to ensure their safety and well-being at all times. One common threat to horses is the presence of foxtail, a type of grass with sharp seed heads that can cause severe harm if ingested. In this section, we will explore the importance of regular monitoring and maintenance to keep your horses safe from foxtail.

Understanding the Dangers of Foxtail

Foxtail is a grassy weed that is prevalent in many horse pastures and hayfields. Its seed heads are designed to attach to animal fur and clothing, aiding in the dispersal of its seeds. However, when horses graze on foxtail-infested areas or consume hay contaminated with foxtail, they are at risk of experiencing various health issues.

The most common problem caused by foxtail is the formation of sharp seed awns that can embed into the soft tissues of a horse’s mouth, throat, or gastrointestinal tract. These awns can lead to painful sores, infections, and potentially life-threatening complications if not addressed promptly.

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Regular Pasture Inspections

To protect your horses from foxtail, it is essential to conduct regular inspections of your pasture. Walk the entire area and keep an eye out for any signs of foxtail infestation. Look for tall grasses with seed heads that resemble bristles or foxtails.

If you spot any foxtail plants, remove them immediately to prevent your horses from ingesting the seeds. Use gloves and proper tools to uproot the plants, ensuring that you remove the entire root system.

Maintaining Clean Hay and Bedding

Foxtail can easily find its way into your horse’s diet through contaminated hay or bedding. Therefore, it is crucial to source high-quality hay that is free from foxtail seeds. Inspect each bale carefully before feeding it to your horses, discarding any that show signs of foxtail presence.

Additionally, regularly clean and replace your horse’s bedding to minimize the risk of foxtail contamination. Remove any bedding that appears to be infested with foxtail or other harmful plants.

Establishing a Safe Grazing Routine

Proper grazing management plays a vital role in preventing foxtail ingestion. Rotate your horses’ grazing areas regularly to reduce the chances of foxtail overgrowth. This will also allow the pasture to recover and reduce the risk of other health issues associated with overgrazing.

Monitor the condition of the pasture and take necessary measures to control weed growth. Regular mowing and weed control can help keep foxtail populations in check.

Consulting with a Veterinarian

If you suspect that your horse may have ingested foxtail or is showing symptoms of discomfort, it is crucial to consult with a veterinarian immediately. They will be able to assess the situation, provide appropriate treatment, and guide you on preventive measures to keep your horses safe from foxtail.

In summary, staying vigilant and implementing regular monitoring and maintenance practices are essential to keep your horses safe from foxtail. Conducting regular pasture inspections, maintaining clean hay and bedding, establishing a safe grazing routine, and consulting with a veterinarian when necessary will help protect your horses from the dangers of foxtail. By taking these proactive steps, you can ensure the well-being and health of your beloved equine companions.


Can foxtail kill horses?

Foxtail grass can pose a serious threat to horses if ingested. The sharp seed awns can burrow into the horse’s mouth, throat, or digestive system, leading to infections, abscesses, and even death. It is important to remove foxtail grass from your horse’s environment and be cautious when feeding them in areas where foxtail is present.


In conclusion, it is crucial to understand the potential dangers that foxtail can pose to horses. While foxtail is not directly lethal to horses, it can cause severe discomfort and health issues if ingested. The sharp awns of foxtail can become lodged in various parts of the horse’s body, such as the mouth, throat, or digestive system, leading to infection or even abscesses. Therefore, it is vital for horse owners to be vigilant and take preventive measures to reduce the risk of foxtail exposure. Regular pasture maintenance, including the removal of foxtail plants, can greatly help in safeguarding horses against potential harm.

In addition to pasture management, horse owners should also ensure that their horses have access to clean and weed-free forage. Regular veterinary check-ups and diligent monitoring of the horse’s behavior and health are essential for early detection and treatment of any foxtail-related issues. By implementing these proactive measures, horse owners can significantly reduce the chances of foxtail-related complications, keeping their equine companions safe and healthy.