Dogs Doing Arithmetic?

Dogs Doing Arithmetic – Putting down three and carrying one.

That’s what my mom used to say when the dog had something in his foot and was walking on three legs and carrying one.  When something was irritating his foot so he didn’t want to step down on it.

I’ve spent a bit of time this year checking, shaving and soaking dog feet.  We have a lot of foxtails, as well as other burrs and seeds. It’s amazing how plants have creative ways plants find a host or “mule” to carry their seeds down the road.

I walk my dogs on open land in the desert.   I try to stick to the dirt roads, so they are not walking in the brush, but there are plenty of things to get stuck in the dogs fur.  Both of my dogs are small and they have hairy feet that catch the stickers.   I always keep them on leash, because we have coyote’s in the area as well as loose dogs from time to time. There was a bobcat sighted recently not too far away!  Ranger, my Jack Russel will chase coyotes, as well as rabbits.  I don’t really need a leash to keep them with me.  They don’t run off, and if they do chase, they come back. I’m not willing to take the risk of them getting too far away for me to help if a coyote is close by. I use retractable leashes, even though I have heard its recommended for coyote areas, to put them on short leashes. I can reel them in pretty quickly, and I can see over the sagebrush if there are any threats.  By the way I really prefer the web style retractable leashes over the cord type.  The cord seems to loose its ability to retract as it gets older making it more difficult to reel them in quickly.  The web “tape” style seems to be more reliable and lasts longer.  This is the one I like best.

In the past we have had foxtails in feet, ears, noses and Ranger has even had one in his eye.  It seems like one of the most important things to remember is to check them often, even if you don’t see licking, head shaking or obvious irritation. Catching them early or before they start to do harm is key.  I have collected a few tools that really help in finding them and have helped to avoid extra trips to the vet.

  1. Otoscope – This is the tool that doctors use to look into a patient’s ear. I have used it to look into my dogs ears, and even the nose.   I got mine on Amazon.  Make sure you get one with a small cone, or a cone designed for a child. Here is a link to the one I purchased. Dr Mom LED PRO OtoscopeThis works fine for most dogs, my dogs are 10 and 20 lbs.  Their ears and noses are pretty small compared to most humans.  You can safely look inside the ear or nose to see if anything is in there.  If you do see a foxtail deep in the ear canal, you should take them to the vet to extract it.  Your dog may need to be sedated for the process, and may need medication if the foxtail is embedded.  If the foxtail is still near the opening, you may be able to remove it before it goes deeper into the ear canal. Don’t put tweezers or anything else down into the ear canal.  You may damage the dog’s eardrum causing a worse problem.
  2. Small Clippers – I stole my hubby’s moustache trimmer to clip between the dog’s toes. For him, its just an excuse to get a new one. Here is a similar one. I also found one designed for dogs here. Doodle had a foxtail in his hind foot between the pads. I was not able to remove it with my fingers because his hair is very fine.  I basically trimmed all the hair out on the bottom of his foot. Along with the hair, out came the foxtail.   His foot was irritated, and even bled a little when I finally removed everything. 

  3. Epsom Salt – There have been times when I can see irritation between the toes, but can’t find the cause. I clip the hair, dig around and find nothing. Also, after I’ve removed a foxtail like the one I mentioned above from Doodles paw. I’ve found that soaking my dog’s feet in warm water and Epsom salt helps to soothe the irritation and draw out small plant matter from their paws. The soothing action of the Epsom salt helps to stop the licking that causes the paw to become even more irritated. I usually don’t have to soak more than two days in a row to get them on the mend. I was surprised to see that my dog seems to enjoy the soothing feeling of the warm foot soak. You can put your dog on the edge of his bed, or for small dogs just hold them. Lay down a towel and put the bowl under the foot.  5-10 minutes soak is good. It helps to have two people to do this, one to distract the dog and one to keep the foot in the bowl. Ranger doesn’t mind me soaking his feet, as long as I let him look out the window. Follow the package instructions for use as a soaking solution.  Don’t allow your dog to drink the solution, the magnesium in it and may give them diarrhea.


If you find you have a foxtail deeply embedded, in the eye, nose or deep in the ear, its best to take them to the vet to have it removed. They will sedate the dog and will be able to remove all of the foxtail.  A thorough check each time you take them into an area with weeds and foxtails will help prevent vet visits. During the summer and fall, if you have any foxtails in your area, you should check your dogs at least every week.  It only takes me a minute to check ears with the otoscope, and now that I have one I can use it for humans too!

Doodle and Ranger are my doggie kids.  Doodle has his own page:

He and Ranger will share their adventures on that page from time to time!  Happy dog walking!!Save



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