Last Updated on March 8, 2022 by Allison Price
Some types of mature grasses have foxtails as seed heads. These seed heads’ bristles can burrow into horses’ mouths and break off. The barbed foxtail bristles are not easily removed, as they act in the same way as a plastic anchor in drywall.
The horse was seen tossing his head, rubbing his mouth and eating hay. A foxtail was found in the horse’s gums and lips during a sedated exam.
After refusing to take a bit, he developed foxtail ulcers (gums), and an inflamed gingiva (gum).
Horses who eat hay with foxtails may develop severe ulceration in their mouths, tongues, and lips. Although they may seem relatively benign, these ulcers can be quite painful. Foxtail ulceration can cause a sour taste in the mouth, difficulty chewing, excess salivation, and swelling. Horses with foxtail ulceration may have a decreased intake of hay and resist having their mouths handled.
What can you do to help your horse? You may find foxtail in your bales if you are feeding mature, late-season hay. These are very dangerous and you should avoid feeding them. Although it is not possible to eliminate all seed heads, it is possible. Stop feeding your horse hay if they have stopped eating it. Most mild cases can be resolved by removing the affected hay. Your horse will take care of the rest. Your veterinarian may have to administer sedation to your horse to remove embedded foxtail bars. To aid in healing, your veterinarian may recommend a dilute antiseptic rinse.