Deadly foxtail grass

Did you know a common grass — called Foxtail — can literally be deadly for your Morkie?

This weed grass is also known as Cheat Grass or Hare Barley. Late in the summer and early fall, it dries out and its seed begin to scatter.  These seeds — known as grass awns — have almost microscopic barbs on them, and will work their way into your Morkie’s fur, paws and ears. They can even burrow through the chest wall and into the body cavity!

Individual grass awns

At right, this is a grass awn – it’s the sharp, barbed grass seed that’s evolved to work its way into the victim’s skin.

Wherever these grass awns burrow in, they cause huge abscesses. So if they get to a major organ (and there are plenty of cases where they have), death can result.

A website called has the full details about this deadly seed.

Wide open fields are home to foxtail grass, also called cheat grass

Early Symptoms of Grass Awn Penetration

The first symptoms can include your Morkie’s excessive licking of the feet and swollen red toes if that’s where they’re entered. Your Morkie may start limping.

Excessive sneezing, drooling, shaking the head, whining and scratching the ears are other early symptoms.

For any of these symptoms, if you suspect your Morkie may have picked up grass awns, see a veterinarian right away.

Next Stage in the Problem

Image from

Like any infection, an invasion of these grass awns can cause:

  • lethargy
  • loss of appetite
  • painful swellings
  • signs of drainage


  • a simple solution is to keep your own property free of noxious weeks, and don’t let your Morkie run in fields of grass or the roadside, where foxtail likely grows
  • if you suspect your Morkie has been exposed to foxtail, look for and try to remove them before they can embed and infect — and remember, these barbed little seeds are designed to work their way in and will not just fall off.
  • keep the hair on your Morkie’s feet short, especially between pads
  • keep him clean and well groomed, so that it’s easier to inspect for grass awns
  • check paws and coat of your Morkie very carefully each time he goes into foxtail ridden areas — common spots where they attack include the dog’s armpits, ears, paws and belly — and even through the nose

Feature photo by Ottawa Dog Photographers Elizabeth & Jane Photography,