Grass Seeds Mean Grooming
Grass seeds may seem like one of those harmless nuisances of summer walks. They can mess up the ankle end of your trousers and maybe herald some hay fever-like coughs or sneezes. But that’s about it – for humans. For dogs, it is a different matter.
Grass seeds don’t pose an instant ‘real and present danger’ to your dog, but they can prove to be a real and present pain. In order to propagate, grass seeds need fly and stick, so, they’ve evolved into an arrowhead like shape to become the perfect little ‘planty’ survivor. And that’s the root of the problem.
Run your hand through your dog’s coat after they’ve been through a grassy field and you’ll just be able to feel where any seeds have landed. Most of these will just fall off or be groomed out. But some will start to work their way deeper and that’s where the problems can start.
Grass seeds can affect:
The skin. Seeds can cause knots and tangles in even medium-length coats or worst lodge in the skin itself to cause real irritation. Most of the harm comes from an over-grooming response from your dog, but any combination of knots, licking and irritation can lead to ugly sores. Not that there are any pretty sores but…
The feet. If you get a stone in your shoe, you take your shoe and sock off. Just like a shoe stone, a lodged seed can cause your dog to limp or appear lame, and if they can’t groom it away this can go on to provide a site for infection. Worse still if a grass seed works its way between your dog’s pads or toes the resultant sore is a prime site for infection.
Eyes, ears, mouth and nose. These are the bits that part the very grasses where the seeds lurk. They also provide openings to the body that give the seeds the chance to really make a nuisance of themselves. A seed in the eye is most obvious as it will cause tears. A seed in the ear may only become obvious once it is firmly lodged and the scratching starts. While a schnoz full of seeds will cause sneezes and can be inhaled.
Insides. The little blighters can be inhaled or eaten. Once inside they can irritate the throat or lungs causing coughs and retching. While if they take the digestive route the little barbs will make ‘transit’ (let’s be coy about it) uncomfortable as the seeds try and snag themselves at every twist and turn. And the intestine is chock full of twists and turns.
What can you do?
First, don’t panic. Give the dog a good old groom after walks in seedy areas (that’s areas with seeds not the wrong side of the tracks). This will get out most of the seeds before they get the can prove a problem. Regular baths will help too. Then just be aware. If you see a limp or notice manic grooming, get your glasses on and have a proper close up look at the affected area. If you see anything you don’t like, call the vet for advice immediately.
Under any circumstances, if your dog starts to vomit, cough or retch; an urgent vet appointment must always be your next step. It could be grass seeds. It could be 1,000 other things. So don’t waste time trying to do a home diagnosis, just pop down the surgery and let the vet have a look. If you’ve noticed grass seeds in the comb or all over your clothes from recent walks, mention it to the vet. It may help them determine the nature of the problem.
Grass seeds aren’t a sufficient reason to stop walking the dog. A good stroll in the country will always do your dog a world of good. Just up your grooming game while you make the most of this glorious summer sun.
If in doubt contact your veterinary practice
And always keep your vet's phone number handy - just in case!