GRASS SEEDS IN DOGS (and cats)

Grass seeds in dogs (and cats)

It is grass seed season again! These nasty little awns can cause a lot of discomfort to your dog, and frustration for your vet and groomer. The very pointed end on a grass seed means it can easily become embedded in your pet’s skin, commonly in the paws, under the tail, armpit or groin region.  The ears are also very susceptible to collecting grass seeds, and also the eyes, as the dogs rub their faces in the grass.

Every vet you ask will have a ‘grass seed horror story’, of that one that got away and caused life-threatening damage, or even death, of a pet. This is because grass seeds can migrate through the body, tracking infection as they go. Dogs may also inhale a grass seed, with it lodging in the lungs and causing a severe chest infection. The body cannot generally break down a grass seed, so wherever it lands, it will eventually require removal. The best way to prevent damage from grass seeds is to find them and remove them as quickly as possible when they are close to the surface and easily accessible. If you suspect a grass seed is lodged too deeply, or there is no sign of a grass seed present but a lump, with pus or blood oozing out, then it is best to have it assessed by a vet straight away. Delaying this visit may result in more invasive surgeries to find and remove the seed. Most dogs will at least need to be sedated to find and remove grass seeds, and I personally have found up to 50 grass seeds in the one unlucky dog.

The symptoms of grass seed infections in various locations are described in the following table.

 

LOCATION

SYMPTOMS

POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS

EARS

-       Shaking of the head

-       Redness of the ear

-       Painful to touch

-       Holding the head to one side

-       Ear infection

-       Rupture of the ear drum

-       Permanent loss of hearing, or     balance

-       Death if infection reaches the brain

EYES

-       Swollen, red eye

-       Excessive tear production

-       Rubbing at the eye

 

 

         Ulceration of surface of the eye

-       Penetration of the eye

-       Removal of the eye if damage severe      enough

PAWS

-       Licking at the toes

-       Red, swollen area between the toes

-       Swelling of the foot

-       Limping or holding the leg up

 

-       Migration of the seed up the leg, between ligaments and tendons, possibly into joints or into the chest

 

NOSE

-       Constant sneezing

-       Bloody discharge from one nostril

-       Rubbing face on the ground

-       Difficult breathing

-       Damage to airways

-       Migration of the grass seed into the lungs; this is usually life threatening

SKIN

-       Swollen, red lump, with blood or pus oozing out

-       Dog licking constantly at the site

-       Grass seed awns sticking out from the skin

 

-       Migration into the chest or abdomen

-       Multiple surgeries to try and locate and remove

-       Occasionally CT scan may be required to locate, as grass seeds are not visible on radiographs

 

VULVA, PENIS

-       Licking at the site

-       Difficulty or pain urinating

-       Blood in urine

-       Swelling and redness

-       Invasive surgery to remove

-       Permanent damage to structures

 

PREVENTION IS THE BEST CURE

1)    Regular (DAILY) checking of your dog all over, including in between each and every toe, and especially after a walk

2)    Avoid long grass on walks, and keep your grass and weeds short at home

3)    Keep long-haired dogs trimmed or clipped, and well groomed, especially around their feet and ears. If trimming them yourself, be mindful of clipping the ‘top’ off a grass seed, possibly leaving the end still embedded in the skin. This makes it even harder to find.

4)    Seek veterinary attention immediately if you suspect a grass seed problem in any location on your dog. Do not expect your groomer to be able to remove these seeds, as they are often too embedded, or require antibiotic treatment once removed. Many times your pet will need to be sedated to ensure safe grass seed removal, so please be understanding of this.