Recreation and Parks Commissioner Kurt Schwengel is getting into the weeds this week, as he seeks to get foxtails out of Santa Monica parks. The kindergarten teacher said he had no idea the plants were a hazard to pets until he saw a post on Nextdoor about a foxtail that went up a dog’s nose, requiring surgery and a $900 vet bill.

“This never occurred to me,” Schwengel said in an interview with the Daily Press. “I never thought to not let my dog sniff certain plants. I had no idea.”

Schwengel is still researching the issue and would like to hear from residents where they have encountered the weeds on public property. So far, he said he received multiple complaints about Hodgekiss Park.

“To be honest I’ve never been on the lookout for them,” Schwengel said, who plans to take the issue directly to city staff once he verifies problem areas. “I’m hoping we can cut through all the political red tape and say these plants are harmful to dogs.”

Foxtails are barbed clusters of seeds on various grasses that can work their way between paws, through fur and even up a pet’s nose, where it can make its way to the brain. If left untreated, foxtails can be deadly. They are found on weeds and ornamental grasses all over the western United States.

Every summer, local veterinarians see an influx of injuries related to the seeds.

“We have seen foxtails stuck in the ears of several dogs this year, as well as one wedged under the skin between the toes of a canine patient,” said Dr. Sabrina Castro of Vetted Petcare. “In both cases, these can be very painful.”

It can be difficult to locate the foxtail, so owners should look for signs of pain or discomfort. Castro said there have been reported cases of foxtails getting into the lungs and brainstem of animals.

“The foxtail is a foreign material, so wherever they travel the body acts as appropriately to produce an inflammatory response to ‘attack’ the intruder,” Castro said. “This inflammatory response can lead to swelling, which creates more pain and discomfort. In addition, the foxtails can bring bacteria with them from the environment under your pet’s skin or in their body, which can lead to infection.”

Residents who have seen foxtails at their local park or other public areas can contact Schwengel via email at

Kate Cagle

Senior reporter for the Santa Monica Daily Press