It’s the time of year that spaniel owners dread – grass seed season! The unique shape of the grass seed means they attach easily to an animal’s fur and burrow into the skin.
Signs that your dog may have picked up a grass seed
Ears: If a grass seed goes down your dog’s ear during a walk they will often shake their head violently, scratch at their ears and be in obvious discomfort. It’s not safe to assume that it might work its way out on its own – the hooked barbs on the seed mean they only travel one direction. It may require sedation or anaesthetic to remove it safely, especially if it’s near the delicate eardrum.
Eyes: Your dog may paw at their eye, which will usually appear red, weeping, closed or partially closed and obviously sore. Your vet will need to examine the eye to safely remove the seed and treat any ulceration and pain.
Feet: Grass seeds between the toes may go unnoticed for a day or two until the seed has penetrated the skin. Your dog may appear lame and lick or chew at their feet. You might also see a painful swelling or oozy wound between the toes.
Once in the skin, the seed may ‘track’ further into the foot or up the leg. In very rare cases they can travel throughout the body and be found causing problems in very odd places! Your vet will want to explore the area with forceps and may prescribe antibiotics if there is infection present.
To prevent grass seed injury and problems
Consider not walking your dog in areas where there are long, flowering grasses during summer.
Some breeds, including spaniels, are more susceptible due to their long or curly coats and long ears. You can help by trimming their coats shorter, especially the hair between the toes, around the feet and feathering around the ears.
After your walk, check your dog’s coat thoroughly, paying particular attention between the toes and in the ears. It is often possible to spot and brush out the seeds before they start to work their way deeper into the coat and ultimately into the skin.
Dr Carlie McMillan BSc BVMedSci BVM BVS GPCert(FelP) MRCVS