The late Spring and early Summer is the time when grass starts to seed. Your pet may love bounding through the long grass but remember, always check at the end of a walk and remove any seeds that you see. Grass seeds can cause an extremely common problem with the dog becoming uncomfortable, often lethargic, and in a lot of pain. Seeing a dog in this condition can be equally as distressing as receiving the final bill for the treatment needed to fix this often preventable problem. Also be aware that grass seeds are not the only problem as many plants, like nettles, have very small almost dust like seeds which can cause eye irritation.
The types of dog mostly affected by grass seeds are breeds possessing hairy ears and feet, like Spaniels, that are walked in meadows or woodlands where grasses commonly grow in abundance. Spaniels, for example, often pick up grass seeds in their feathery paws.
Why are grass seeds a problem?
Its their small shape coupled with nature’s unique design.
The two most common places for dogs to have a problem with a grass seed are the foot and the ear, although other places on your dog’s body can be at risk too. Foxtail grass seeds, like the ones in the picture, are like tiny arrowheads which can attach to an animal’s fur and will not fall off easily by themselves. They can then travel one way in towards the skin of the dog.
Between the toes of any foot of the dog is a vulnerable area. Here the grass seed attaches to the soft feathery fur and makes its way towards the foot itself, penetrating the skin easily and then starting to burrow deep into – and through – tissues of the foot resulting in extreme pain, discomfort, infection and sudden lameness. The longer grass seeds are left on your dog unnoticed and untreated, the more likely they are to burrow right through the skin, track up the paw, then the leg, sometimes even reaching the chest cavity. There are recorded cases where a single grass seed has travelled all the way from the toes ending its journey deep inside the heart!
If you take a little time to check your dog after a walk then a grass seed can easily be removed from the fur before it has the chance to pierce the skin, or if it’s only just punctured the skin, can easily be pulled-out and the tiny puncture wound can then simply be bathed and treated.
The second most common place for these seeds to cause problems is down the ear canal, as once again their unidirectional nature and shape makes pretty sure that the grass seed can work its way from the fur around the ears down along the ear canal, and come to rest right up against the delicate ear drum.It’s no wonder that dogs start frantically pawing and rubbing the affected ear on the ground, and find it incredibly painful when you touch or examine the ear.
As with all clinical conditions affecting our pets, prevention is always better than cure.
Owners of all dogs, especially more vulnerable breeds, should make sure the fur on their paws, toes and around their ears is kept trimmed very short during the summer and autumn months. Sometimes even booties can be worn when going outside.
Every inch of your dog should be routinely checked for grass seeds after returning home from every walk as there are a few other places on your dog’s anatomy, including eyelids and lip folds, where they can get stuck and cause similar problems.
If you notice any of the above signs, especially head-shaking or paw-licking or any other abnormality then please always call your vet asap for the most successful treatment outcomes.