You would not believe what damage a tiny little grass seed can do to your pet! Most varieties of meadow grass flower in the mid to late summer and this is when we see the most problems. The problem being that dogs love to run around in the grass and the grass seeds or awns are deposited onto the passing animal. From the point of view of the plant, this is great as seed distribution is what they are trying to achieve! However the seeds have pointed ends and sharp husks which can attach easily to fur and burrow down into it.
The main areas on the body where we see problems associated with grass seeds are:
However they can also end up in the following unusual places causing less common symptoms:
- Skin around the armpits and tail
How to prevent grass seed injury and problems
- Do not walk your dog in areas where there are long, flowering grasses during the summer months.
- Certain breeds are more susceptible due to their long coats. Dogs that have a lot of feathering between their toes, such as springer spaniels, are particularly at risk. You can help by clipping their coats as short as possible, including hair between toes and around ears.
- After your walk, check your dog over thoroughly, especially between the toes and in the ears. You can often spot a grass seed lurking before it starts to embed itself into the skin of your dog.
Signs that your dog may have picked up a grass seed
If a grass seed goes down a dog’s ear during a walk, you will probably not be able to see anything. However, in most cases, your dog will start to shake his head often violently, scratch at the affected ear and be in sudden obvious discomfort. Take your dog to the vet as soon as you can. Your dog may need a sedation or anaesthetic to get the grass seed out.
Do not think it might come out on its own as the barbs on the seed prevent this ever happening.
Grass seeds can go into the pocket around the eye or under the third eyelid. You may see part of the grass seed poking out - which you may think you can get out yourself – however it is best to take your pet to the vet as you could damage the eye. Your dog typically will have an obviously sore/red/often runny and closed eye, and he may be constantly pawing at it. Take your dog to the vet as they will need to examine the eye and remove the grass seed. Sometimes this can be done consciously, by using local anaesthetic drops in the eye.
Grass seeds that attach themselves to the fur between the toes of dogs, often do not cause an immediate problem. Therefore it can be difficult to link your walk in the field with your dog chewing its foot 2 days later. However, this is probably the first sign you will get. If a grass seed has penetrated the skin you may see a small wound which is typically oozy, red, and infected looking.
If you can see the end of the grass awn, and it hasn’t penetrated right in, then you may be able to pull it out with tweezers. Our advice would always be to contact the vet as they have specialist forceps for this type of thing.
If you cannot see the seed, but there is an obvious wound, the sooner quicker you get to the vet, the easier it will be to get it out. If left for a few days, the seeds can track up the legs and it can be like looking for a needle in a haystack!
Grass seeds have been responsible for serious conditions in dogs
Grass seeds are like little tiny arrow heads and as such, they only tend to go in one direction. If a grass seed penetrates a body and is not removed, it can move through the body systems and end up anywhere. Grass seeds have been located in lungs, spines, abdomens of dogs and tiny as they are, will cause disease by inflammation, infection and abscess formation because it is foreign organic matter. These cases are, however, very rare.