Grass seeds are typically an issue in warmer months, coming into spring and throughout summer when grass is growing and drying out, and our pets’ are spending more time outside.
Grass seeds can affect all animals, including cats, dogs and pocket pets, even large animals can be affected like cows, sheep and alpacas!
Grass seeds have a pointed tip at one end and multiple shoots at the other making it very easy to move deeper into tissue and very hard to remove without special equipment. Grass seeds can create tracts under the skin and can be found quite a way away from the initial penetration site. Sometimes they can travel so deep they enter organs and can even travel through airways into the lungs.
Symptoms can include redness, swelling and discharge at the penetration site; excessive licking and chewing at the skin (particularly the feet/paws); scratching ears or mouth; shaking their head; smelly ears with dark, gunky discharge; or excessive and repetitive sneezing (occasionally containing blood).
Treatment depends on how deep the grass seed has gone into the tissue. Sometimes grass seeds can be removed carefully at home. Sometimes we need to use special equipment to flush the tract and removed in the clinic and may even need to sedate or anaesthetise the pet to allow us to explore the tracts and remove the grass seed. This procedure may include making an incision to remove the grass seed and sometimes dressings or sutures are required. Tracts can become infected and often require antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications to take home.
You can help reduce the risk of grass seeds in your pets by keeping the yard mowed and tidy. Be aware of your surroundings – if you are going for walks, look out for foxtail grass seeds, and try to avoid long and/or dry grass when possible. Check your pets’ regularly, paying particular attention to ears, and high friction areas like the feet, armpits and groin. If you have fluffy pets, try and keep the hair on their feet trimmed and brush them regularly.
If you suspect your pet has a grass seed injury, please contact our clinics for advice.
By Nurse Caitlin