Why Grass Seeds Are Dangerous to Dogs

Grasaren bij honden: Let er goed op

Place an innocent-looking grass seed next to your powerful pooch. It’s hard to believe that a grass seed could lead to so much pain for your dog.

Yet, grass seeds and dogs are not a good mix. The seeds can be the root cause of a spike in veterinary hospital admissions, particularly over the Spring and Summer months.

Find out what you can do to reduce the chances of a painful episode caused by grass seeds as we examine the potential complications involved.

How Grass Seeds Pose a Threat to Dogs

Dogs pick up the backward-pointing barbs when they run through wild grass, rye, and barley. At the time they’re blissfully unaware that the seeds can become embedded in their skin, paws, and other body parts, later causing injuries and infections.

Some grass seeds are like tiny arrowheads which can easily attach themselves to an animal’s fur. Most seeds have awns that fan out, making it nearly impossible for the seed to go backward, in a similar kind of way to the tip of a fish hook or point of an arrowhead.

Over time, the seeds physically burrow their way into the skin of the animal, carrying infection through the skin and into the body. That can lead to painful swelling that can then cause an abscess. All dogs are at risk but those with feathery toes like Springer Spaniels that enjoy frolicking through the long grass tend to be more susceptible.

How Dogs Pick Up Grass Seeds

Certain areas of a dog’s body are more likely to come into contact with grass seed. You may notice a swelling where the seed gets lodged causing your dog irritation. Dogs typically try to lick, scratch, or chew the affected areas.

When grass seeds lodge themselves in the skin, you might notice lumps with blood and pus along with a seed sticking out from the surface. 

Here’s the lowdown on areas of the body prone to grass seed issues and what the potential symptoms can be:

Dogs’ Paws

Once attached to silky, feathery fur, the grass seed will often make its way toward the foot itself. It can easily penetrate the thin skin there before burrowing into sensitive tissues of the foot leading to discomfort, infection, extreme pain, or even a sudden episode of lameness. You may notice your dog licking their paws excessively.

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Dogs’ Ears

Not surprisingly, ears brushing past tall grasses are likely to pick up the seeds. The grass seeds can then find their way into the ear canal and eardrum. You may notice:

  • Your dog shaking their head or holding it on one side
  • The ear developing redness and becoming tender to the touch
  • Your dog displaying a loss of balance

Dogs’ Eyes

It’s not unusual for grass seeds to get stuck behind the eyelids. This can lead to:

  • Swollen, weepy eyes
  • Your dog attempting to rub their eyes at every available opportunity

Dogs’ Noses

Because dogs love a good sniff it means it’s easy for them to breathe in grass seeds. These can cause them to sneeze. You may also notice:

  • A bloody discharge from the nostrils
  • Your dog rubbing their face on the ground or experiencing breathing difficulties

In very rare cases grass seeds may get inhaled so far into a dog’s lungs that they cause pneumonia. They can even lead to the lungs collapsing.

Dogs’ Genitals

When seeds get lodged here, dogs will tend to lick excessively. They may even start biting at the vulva or end of the prepuce and have trouble urinating. You might notice redness, swelling, and even blood in the urine. Very occasionally the result may be a urinary tract infection from the self-trauma.

Treating Issues Caused by Grass Seeds in Dogs

If you think your dog may have a grass seed stuck on their bodies, you should seek the advice of a vet. They may be able to extract the seed using a specially designed pair of tweezers.

Once grass seeds work their way into the body, there can be complications. Grass seeds tend not to show up on X-rays adding to the difficulties in treating their adverse effects.

Eyes and Ears

If grass seed gets lodged behind the eyelid, your vet may recommend an anesthetic in order to remove it. They will also check the surface of your dog’s eye to make sure the seed hasn’t scratched it potentially leading to a corneal ulcer.

Occasionally grass seeds can get stuck in the pink flap that comes from the inner corner of the eye. They then have the potential to penetrate through the eye.

In the case of ears, your vet may use a special instrument called an otoscope to examine them. When ears are especially sore or if the grass seed is deep in the ear of your dog, your vet may need to sedate your dog to get the seed out. In very serious cases, the seed can rupture the eardrum leading to middle and inner ear infections that in turn cause dizziness.

Further Complications

When grass seeds get in between toes, they can make their way under the skin causing a swelling known as an interdigital cyst. Sometimes it’s possible for a vet to remove them while your dog is awake, but it’s more common for your dog to need an operation. This gives the vet a chance to find the seed and remove it.

Your vet will typically recommend antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication after the removal of grass seeds due to the infections they can carry.

Occasionally, grass seeds can pass through the intestines and even lodge themselves close to the spine. In these kinds of cases, your vet may recommend a CT scan or specialist ultrasound.

In rare cases, grass seeds travel up your dog’s leg between tendons and ligaments as far as the groin or even the shoulder.

How to Prevent Problems From Grass Seeds

If possible, you should avoid letting your dog play in long grass during the warmer months. Check your dog thoroughly after each walk. You can do this by running your fingers through their coat.

You should also look carefully inside the ears, mouth, and eyes and feel in between their toes. Ensure you groom your pet regularly, particularly around the ears and feet.

Talk to A Vet About Your Concerns

The biggest threat to your dog from grass seeds is when they get inside the skin, in the lungs, or burrow into the body. If you think your dog may be a risk, talk to one of our team. Book your veterinary session here right now.

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