Bone Idol | Guide: Grass Seeds & Your Dogs Health
Grass Seeds could be a threat to your dogs health
Grass seeds may seem like a harmless topic to many, but most people don't know that grass seeds can pierce your dogs skin and even travel inside your dog, causing pain, discomfort, inflammation, infection and even lead to serious surgery and complications!
Here we wanted to give you the basics and what to look out for, how to avoid grass seeds and what they are capable of.
With first hand experience, this can be an horrific experience for both dog and owner. So please think about where you walk and check when you brush and groom your dog.
How to Look Out For Grass Seeds
Many of us enjoy the variety that the seasons bring us and the adventures we have with our dogs. As we move though summer, we enjoy the warmer sun and wonderful walks. With this bounty of our door time we run the risk of grass seeds. We and the local vets see an increase in the number of dogs with grass seeds in the coats and, even worse, in the skin.
Avoid tall, or long grasses, dry cuttings and ‘dead’ looking patches of longer grasses. Unfortunately, these are often at the side of the path or field you are walking along. If you need any help or advice we always recommend talking to your vet or qualified dog groomer.
The biggest but not only culprit in the UK seem to be ‘foxtail’ grasses or spear grass (main picture). These spear-like seeds detach into our clothes and our dog’s fur as we walk, bound, jump and play. They can become a health hazard for dogs and other domestic animals as they can gradually work their way towards and into the skin. But they do not stop there! Once piercing the skin, it continues to enter your dog’s body.
The grass seeds can then travel around creating a minute ‘tract’ that can become infected and pose a serious health risk for your dog.
On the Plant Seeds may appear in a variety of styles, from usually at the end of taller stems the leaves of the grass at the base of the plant.
The seeds form with a hull (or husk) this is often the part that can come detached when in your dogs coat or skin.
The seed its self is an arrow head shape often very small and hard to spot.
Regularly mown lawns rarely produce seed as they the plant never gets big enough to do this.
The grass seed itself is seen as a ‘foreign object’ by your dog’s immune system and can form an abscess inside your dog. (An abscess is a pocket of puss.) The borrowing seeds can also pose risks to soft tissue and organs within your dog and can, result in surgery. Our personal experience is both severe and incredibly stressful. It resulted in multiple high-risk surgeries over the course of a year, discomfort, distress and a big vet bill!
As we move through the summer and into Autumn its more important than ever to check your dog for grass seeds after every walk. So here is our Bone Idol guide to searching out these pesky seeds that pose such a risk.
Check Your Dog From Nose to Tail
As a general rule move front to back, checking each section in turn. Longer coat breeds and fluffy dogs are more prone to picking up grass seeds because of their fur. So be sure to part the hair on longer breeds on each area to thoroughly examine the skin and brush/comb well as you go.
Nose & Eyes:
Always check your around your dog’s nose and eyes as its easy for them to pick one up when sniffing the ground, even on the side of a path, or when running in long grass. Check both nostrils, the fur on the face and examine any folds of skin your dog may have. Gently open each eye and just check they are clear.
Lift the flap of your dog’s ear and look down into the ear checking the seed has not started to travel down the ear canal. Also check each ear front and back.
Breeds that have long ears that are especially fluffy will be more prone to picking the seeds up, part the fur and go through the dog’s ear fur with a brush and a comb.
Start at the top and work down checking inside the armpits and joints as more mobile areas cause grass seeds to migrate faster.
Lifting dog’s foot back, look in between the pads, gently pulling the pad apart and checking the seed is not in between or lodged in any ‘pockets’ of hair.
Breeds with more fur are again more likely to pick up the seeds in the pads.
Between the toes.
Gently part each toe on the top of your dog’s foot and check that seeds are not hidden in between. This is a very common entry point for a seed to enter the dog’s body as they are harder to spot.
As you might expect, breeds with more fur are again more likely to pick up the seeds in the pads.
The Hygiene Area
As your dog walks around, sniffing and exploring they naturally pass by long grasses, even in built up areas. Particularly when they go to the toilet, they can pick up seeds in this area of their body.
To check for seeds here, if your dog will let you, gently turn the dog on to its back and check the groin area and in between the back legs. Alternatively lift each back leg.
What Else can I do to Protect my Dog?
Consider your dogs summer groom style, longer coats are much more likely to pick up seeds and the same goes for curly coats. Thing about the high risk areas like your dogs face (especially the snout and ears), feet and legs.
Talk to your groomer for advice on the perfect summer cut for your dog.
Also check the skin of your short haired breed regularly too as they are not immune just a little less likely to suffer from picking up a grass seed.
Where To Walk Your Dog:
When walking your dog, especially off lead think about the environment and what's there. For example woodland walks are generally cooler and tend not to have as many grass seeds. While meadows and open fields and spaces are more likely to have grass.
Farm fields could have crops growing could also pose a threat much like grass seeds, barley and wheat for example for similar seeds to foxtail grasses and are sharp and robust.
The beach is often a good choice, but please consider the heat, time of day and who else is using the beach.
What to do if you Find Grass Seeds on Your Dog
If you find a grass seed that has pierced or entered your dogs skin it is always best to get your vet to double check the point of entry to make sure the whole seed is out. Any remaining organic material of the seed and the entry point pose a risk of infection, abscesses or complications.
If you are concerned about removing a grass seed or that not all of the seed has come out, always consult your vet.
If your dog groomer finds a grass seed they should always tell you, show you the entry point and advise on your next course of action. At Bone Idol we strongly advise veterinary check.