Summer Dangers – Grass seeds

Is your dog susceptible to grass seed injury?

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The summer months give you more time for outdoor activities with your dog, however you also need to be conscious of the risks to your pet from grass seed injuries.

Why do grass seeds cause such a problem?

The grass seed darts can cause severe problems on a regular basis. In some circumstances, the dog may even need surgery to have them removed. The seeds can enter the skin by burrowing into the deep fur around the feet and toes, get between the eyelids and eye, enter the nose, and in some serious cases, make their way into the dog’s ears, resulting in the risk of infection, inflammation and severe pain.

What to look out for

There are several species of grass that can cause a hazard, but the 2 most common species found in the UK are Barren Brome and Wall Barley. The seeds of the grass appear as tiny darts, with bristle, arrow-like structures that will latch on easily, while the arrow shaped point of the seed makes it effortless to enter the skin quite deeply.

Symptoms to look out for

Ears – Keep an eye open for your dog to start pawing at his head, or the affected ear, often quite soon after a walk. The dog will hold his head to the side as he attempts to shake the seed out of his ear. Investigation will not show you the seed, as it could be embedded inside the ear canal, where it may result in chronic infection, and possible rupture of the ear drum.

Feet – If a seed becomes lodged in the skin between his paw, you may notice a small hole with the tip of the grass seed still visible. The toe area may be sore and swollen if the grass seed has travelled further into the foot area.

Eyes – If your dog has a grass seed in the eye area, he may have a swollen eye, possibly with some discharge. He may try to keep rubbing his eye, or perhaps begin squinting.

Inhalation – It is possible that grass seeds may be swallowed or inhaled. If ingested, they can cause pneumonia, and in the worse cases, a collapsed lung.

Treatment needed

A visit to the vet is usually necessary, to allow for diagnosis with an otoscope reaching into the ear canal. A dog will probably need to be sedated to allow the removal of the seeds with forceps. Sedation or a general anaesthetic is sometimes required to allow the vet to search for a hidden grass seeds in the paw area, as they may be painful and finding them can be tricky due to swollen tissue.

Anti-inflammatory or antibiotic medication is usually prescribed after removing a grass seed, as there is a risk that they could carry infection at the point where they have lodged.

Prevention tips

To prevent injury from grass seeds, try to avoid long grass when out walking. When you return home after a walk, it’s always wise to check your dog’s paws and ears, lip folds and eyelids, for any signs of grass seeds. Keep long haired dogs, and those with long ears, well groomed, paying particular attention to their ears and feet.

If you suspect that your dog has been injured by this grass seed problem, see a vet immediately, as the sooner the problem is detected, the more chance you have of finding the grass seed before it becomes difficult to locate, or it causes more major problems for your dog.

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