Did you know that the humble little grass seed can be a very pesky problem for dogs? Late spring and throughout summer many dogs will collect all sorts of burrs in their coat after a frolic through long grasses. Grass seeds are a particular problem as they have an arrow like head on them. Once they get stuck on your pet’s coat, they continue to move in a one-way direction and get lodged in the skin and then burrow underneath it. They commonly cause swellings and abscesses. Once they are buried under the coat your dog will need an anaesthetic and surgery to retrieve the offending seed head.
Whilst lodged grass seeds may be found anywhere on your dog, they are mostly a problem on the feet and in-between the toes. They are also commonly found on the front of the chest and around the armpits. For dogs that like to eat grass we occasionally see big swellings under the jaw. This occurs when a seed head has been ingested and gets stuck in the mouth. It then works its way to the subcutaneous tissues under the jaw causing an abscess. Retrieving the little seeds once they are burrowed under the skin isn’t always easy. Occasionally it can be like looking for a needle in a haystack and multiple operations are required to remove bits of broken down grass head.
Occasionally a grass seed head finds its way into your dog’s ears. This usually doesn’t cause too much damage but can be severely irritating for your pet. Your vet should be able to retrieve the grass seed whilst your dog is awake. However, if your dog is sensitive about their ears or if the ear is painful your dog will need to be sedated for the seed head to be removed. Dogs prone to getting a seed head lodged in their ears commonly have long fluffy ears like Cocker Spaniels and King Charles Cavaliers.
As always, prevention is better than cure. Keep the grass mowed short at your house and take care allowing your dog to run in long grasses. If you have a dog prone to collecting things in their coat (like poodles, collies and schnauzers) they should be checked daily all over for seeds. Pay particular attention to in-between each toe and around the chest and ears. Consider having your dogs coat clipped short over summer to aid your search.