Every dog owner dreads the appearance of the dreaded grass seed from the spring to autumn, so here’s our survival guide to get you and your pet safely through this painful time.
What and where are they
Grass seeds are like tiny darts which are designed by nature to travel in one direction – if one gets caught in your dog’s fur, it will only continue onwards to the skin. Once there, it will pierce the surface and continue its journey through your dog’s body. They are predominantly found in tall grasses, meadows and grassy fields, so it makes sense to avoid these areas as much as possible. Instead try to walk your dog on short lawn-type grass, pathways (not concrete in the heat) and woodland areas.
Who’s at risk
Any dog walking in long grass can pick up grass seeds, but working dogs are particularly susceptible, as are dogs with long hair, long ears and fluffy feet, such as Spaniels, Cockapoos, Terriers and Westies. Feet and ears are the most common sites to find grass seeds, but your pooch can pick one up anywhere. Prevention is far more preferable to cure when it comes to this pesky problem and you should keep furry feet and ears neatly trimmed, as well as regularly grooming your dog after a walk to check for any nasties.
What to look for
Check your dog after a walk in long grass for burrs, which can cause fur matting, as well as grass seed (it’s a good excuse for a cuddle after all!). Simply run your hands over every inch of her whole body, paying particular attention to feet, ears, eyes, lips, “armpits” and groin. If a grass seed has already attached itself to your dog, she will likely tell you, so watch out for the following symptoms:
In the paw – your dog might limp, hold one leg up regularly or repeatedly lick one paw.
In the ears – your dog might repeatedly shake her head, scratch her ear, rub her head along the floor or walk with the head tilted.
In the eyes – the eye is likely to close, look red, inflamed, watery and / or ooze puss as the eye tries to rid itself of the foreign object.
On the skin – your dog will likely chew or nibble at the affected site, which should be discouraged for fear of her releasing the seed and then swallowing it.
What to do
Time is of the essence with a grass seed. If you catch one while it is still only in the fur, you will have saved your dog much pain (not to mention your wallet after the vet’s bill!). If you spot the seed when it has just pierced the skin, you might be able to pull it out yourself with a strong pair of tweezers. If so, make sure that you bathe and clean the puncture wound afterwards. But if the grass seed has burrowed its way deep into your dog, you should visit your vet immediately for removal as your dog may need to be sedated.
Written by: Lucy Ellis
Image credit: Camouflage – Watercolour Sunset – June 2014 by Gareth Williams via http://bit.ly/1B2Nlih