How can grass seeds cause problems to dogs?
Dogs with injuries caused by grass seeds is an extremely common
seasonal problem. Breeds with hairy ears and hairy feet are more at
risk if walked in meadows or woodlands where these grasses commonly
grow in abundance. The common occurrence of problems caused by
grass seeds is mainly down to their minute shape coupled with its
unique design. When examined closely, dry Foxtail grass seeds
resemble tiny arrowheads. This enables them to attach themselves
easily to an animal's fur and burrow into the skin of that victim's
Where do grass seeds commonly affect dogs?
The two most common presentations of a dog with a grass seed are
the foot and the ear, although other places on your dog's body can
be at risk too. Grass seeds commonly get in between the toes of the
dog's foot, referred to as the interdigital space. The grass seed
already attached to the surrounding soft feathery fur now makes its
way towards the foot itself, penetrating with ease the thin skin
before starting to burrow deep into - and through - highly
sensitive tissues of the foot resulting in extreme pain,
discomfort, infection and sudden onset (acute) lameness.
The second most common place for these seeds to cause problems
is down the ear canal, their uni-directional nature and shape
allows the grass seed to work its way from the fur around the ears
down along the ear canal, and come to rest right up against the
delicate ear drum.
How can I tell that my dog has been affected by grass
Your dog may shake its head and vigorously lick its paws. They
may also look uncomfortable, lethargic and in a lot of pain. If you
notice any of the above signs, especially head-shaking, paw-licking
or any other abnormality - then call your vet straightaway for the
most successful treatment outcomes. Finally, please help to raise
awareness and tell others, especially first-time dog owners, of the
symptoms to look out for, as a tiny little grass seed can often be
the cause of one of the most painful, expensive, and common
conditions our beloved dogs can suffer from.
What treatment is available for dogs that have been affected by
Your vet may try fishing around through the entry-hole with a
specially designed long pair of tweezers called 'crocodile
forceps'. As grass seeds are made from vegetable matter they're
invisible on x-ray (unlike bone or metal) so their exact location
within the paw is usually a mystery. Sometimes a second hole is
detected where the grass seed has already travelled through the
entire foot and exited through the other side leaving a narrow
empty tunnel, or 'sinus', connecting the two.
If it is the ear that is affected, your vet may examine the ear
to confirm the diagnosis and remove the grass seed with tweezers.
Your vet may prefer to sedate your dog as they may be in too much
pain to allow your vet to examine and for safe removal.
Who can I contact for further advice?
The Kennel Club is not a veterinary organisation and is unable
to provide general or case specific veterinary advice. If you
have any questions regarding any of the issues discussed in this
article then please contact your local veterinary practice for
This article was written by Marc Abraham and was originally
published in the Crufts Magazine - www.thecruftsmagazine.com.
Marc Abraham is a vet based in Brighton. He regularly
appears on UK television. For more information about Marc