Foxtails are a lot more trouble than they look. A foxtail can potentially get inhaled through the windpipe and get lodged in there, or worse yet, it could make it to the lungs. If your vet has suspicions that your dog has inhaled a foxtail, then this is what you can expect from the process of getting it out.
The first thing your vet will likely do is to take some scans to determine where the foxtail is stuck in your dog's body. If it's still in the windpipe, it may only require a minor surgical procedure to remove it.
In this instance, veterinarians can sedate your dog and then use a scope to go down the windpipe. Using a camera and small tools will allow them to find the foxtail, remove it, and cut away damaged tissue if necessary and stitch it back up.
Unfortunately, it's not always that easy. If the foxtail has already made it to your dog's lungs, it's likely that major surgery will be required.
In this instance, your dog will be put under sedation and their chest cavity will be opened up. Your vet will cut open the lung with the foxtail and remove it. Then, any damaged and infected tissue will also be removed from the lung. This is necessary because the entire lung can become necrotic and die if that tissue is left behind.
After that, your dog's chest wall will be closed back up and their entire torso will be wrapped in bandages for safety and compression.
After your dog has undergone surgery, they'll need some time to recover. With the minor surgery, they may only be in the veterinary hospital for a day or so for monitoring purposes. However, with major surgery, it may take longer. Strong antibiotics and around-the-clock wound care will be necessary to get your dog through the recovery process. They'll likely be able to come home in a few days' time but will still need to return to the vet for check-ups and suture removal, so be prepared for that.
Foxtails are dangerous for pets, including both cats and dogs. If you know foxtails are growing in your yard, use weed killer to get rid of them or rip them out at the root. Additionally, avoid areas with foxtails when you take your dog for a walk to prevent this from happening again.
Contact a vet who offers veterinary surgical services to learn more.