Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Troublesome grass seeds!

During the summer we start to see an influx of grass seed cases arriving in the hospital. The worst offenders are seeds (awns) which look like small darts with a sharp point and fanned tail. They get caught up in the animal's fur and can end up in all manner of places. They tend to affect dogs more than cats ( they are usually good at grooming themselves), but cat owners still need to be aware of these troublesome seeds.

swelling between toes

The most frequent area to find grass seeds is in-between the toes or underneath the paw where the dog has stood on a seed and it has got caught up in their fur. The sharp point on the seed works its way into the skin where it can travel further into the paw and up between tendons and ligaments. Often an owner is alerted to their dog incessantly licking at the affected paw and the appearance of a reddened lump. They might limp as it is uncomfortable. In some cases we simply lance the site and a small abscess discharges along with the seed, but unfortunately it isn't always this simple. Some patients require a sedation or general anaesthetic so that the vet can surgically explore the region and remove it. This can require several operations.

A grass seed found in the fur on an ear

The ears are also susceptible for collecting grass seeds especially in dogs that have large hairy ears like spaniels. The seeds get caught up in the fur of the ear flaps before finding their way down the ear canal. The dog will show signs of discomfort such as head shaking, holding the head to one side or they might yelp if the ear is touched as it is painful.

Seeds can also find their way up noses causing sneezing, pawing at the nose and discharge, or into eyes where they become lodged between the eye and eyelid. The animal will likely rub their face and squint due to the discomfort and the eye may water and look reddened. The vet will first examine your pet. If a grass seed is visible, the vet can sometimes remove it without the need for sedation or anaesthesia, but often this becomes necessary for the safe removal from these sensitive sites. 

Although thankfully rare, we have seen cases where the grass seed has pricked the skin and gone unnoticed. It continues to move around under the skin travelling to other parts of the body where it causes swellings, infection or abscesses, making the dog very ill. 

Reducing the risk

  • Try to avoid walking your dog in fields with long grass as much as possible and stick to areas where it has been cut short.
  • After every walk check your dog thoroughly by running your fingers through their fur ( include the armpit and groin area), check each ear flap including the fur around the entrance to the ear canal and fur around the face. Check between the toes on each paw.
  • Daily grooming will help to clear the coat of any debris and seeds caught up in the fur.
  • Excessive hair on the feet and around the ears can be trimmed to reduce the chance of the seeds being picked up. 
  • Although cats tend to be less affected by grass seeds due to their fastidious grooming routine, it is still a good idea to check through their fur (especially long haired cats).
  • Be vigilant!

If you notice any of the above signs or any other abnormality, please call your vet as soon as possible for the most successful treatment outcome.

Disclaimer :
The contents of the Arden House Animal Hospital website are for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinary surgeon with any questions you may have regarding your animal’s medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.