Grass seeds

Grass seeds injuries
 

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 body part.

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 seeds?

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 grass seeds?

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 further information.

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 please visitwww.marcthevet.com.

Version suitable for printing

Copyright © The Kennel Club Limited 2016. The unauthorised reproduction of text and images is strictly prohibited.