Grass seeds can be the scourge of summer for dogs... they are like fish hooks and only made to move one way, forward.
While long- or fluffy-coated dogs are at greatest risk, they can even penetrate the skin of short-haired dogs. We see seeds caught between toes, in armpits, down ears, up nostrils, stuck on tonsils, in the eye and in fact just about anywhere in the body.
The barbs mean that once they are inside the dog they tend to travel forward with muscle movement and can end up some distance from the original entry point.
Grass seeds are of course vegetable matter and produce a nasty foreign body reaction. Any that get through the skin will cause the development of an abscess with lots of pain and redness evident.
The dog’s reaction to this will depend on the area involved but usually involves lots of licking at the affected spot. Sometimes the abscess bursts and the seed comes out, but if the seed has travelled the pus may come out but not the seed.
It appears to heal but then some days later the abscess reforms either at the original site or over where the seed is now sitting.
Grass seeds down ears are common, especially in dogs with hair down the ear canal like poodles and their crosses.
The seed causes severe irritation and often pain if the outside of the ear is handled. If the seed remains down the ear canal a nasty ear infection develops.
Seeds in the eye of course are very painful and may cause a corneal ulcer. A sudden onset of eye pain with lots of pus in the eye would make one very suspicious of the presence of a foreign body.
So, what do we do? Well we need to remove the seed as soon as possible.
Seeds that have penetrated the skin can be hard to find especially if they have been there a while. A general anaesthetic is usually needed so that the area can be probed with forceps or surgically opened to hunt for the seed.
Seeds in the ear are painful to remove even if they are easy to see with the aid of an otoscope. As the seed is grasped to remove it is pulled out tail first and those barbs scrape the lining of the ear canal.
Often sedation and analgesia are needed to allow the seed’s removal and of course we have to be very careful not to damage the ear drum meaning a still dog is essential.
Seeds in the eye can often be removed with the aid of local anaesthetic drops but again the dog needs to be kept still so sometimes sedation is needed.
It’s nearly impossible to entirely prevent grass seed problems unless the dog is completely kept away from dry grass. Aside from avoidance the best preventative is keeping the coat short so that seeds can be seen before they penetrate. This can be quite effective for feet and armpits.
It’s difficult to avoid getting seeds down the dog’s ears but at least be aware that this is common in the summer and seek treatment from your vet as soon signs of ear irritation are seen.