Most dog owners will have experienced the issues that the seasonal nasties grass seeds can inflict on our canine friends. Petplan Vet of the Year 2013, Laura Pugh, provides the low-down on what they are and explains how something so small can cause a rather big problem.
For such tiny objects, grass seeds can cause a lot of trouble, especially in the summer months. Dogs often get them lodged in their ear canals or between their toes when romping outside or on a walk, and they can cause a lot of pain and irritation.
It’s hard to dodge the problem entirely as dogs love being outdoors and need regular exercise, but some grasses are particularly worth avoiding. Foxtails, for example, are grasses with razor-sharp seeds that resemble little torpedoes in the shape of a fox’s tail. A common foxtail grass problematic to dogs is wild barley – the dry grass seeds all too easily attach themselves to an animal’s fur, then work their way down to pierce the skin or enter the ear canal.
Signs of the seed
The telltale warning signs to watch for are head shaking and paw licking, especially shortly after a walk. If your dog is pawing at his head and an ear, he might have grass seed lodged in his ear canal. Sometimes dogs will also hold their heads to the side in an attempt to shake it out. You won’t be able to spot the seed as it will be trapped deep inside, but a vet can make a diagnosis by using an otoscope to look down the ear canal and remove the seed with forceps if necessary. Due to their pendulous ears, Cockapoo, Cocker and Springer Spaniels are the most commonly affected breeds.
It’s a good idea to check your dog all over for any lurking grass seeds after every walk as they can become stuck in a number of places, including eyelids and lip folds as well as the paws and ears. If your dog starts licking his paw to ease itching and has a very small, suspicious-looking sore between his toes, consult your vet for advice as soon as possible. After removal of the seed, often under anaesthetic, the dog is usually treated with painkillers and antibiotics to counter any infection.
All breeds with hairy ears and feet are at particular risk from grass seed, but you could take preventative action by avoiding long-grassed areas and keeping the fur around your dog’s ears and feet – which can trap the grass seeds – trimmed short during summertime.