Grass seed injuries are a common problem for dogs in the summer months, so it's important that you keep your eyes peeled for any signs that your pet may be suffering from one.
What is a grass seed injury?
An injury involving a tiny grass seed might not initially sound like a significant problem, but for dogs, it can cause a lot of pain, as well as infection. If it affects the foot and is left untreated, potential lameness can occur. It is a common injury in the summer months, when grass seeds are abundant and dogs enjoy walks through meadows.
Thanks to the grass seeds' tiny size and shape, they can easily attach to your dog's fur - most likely on the foot or ear - where they can start to cause problems. If they get caught on your dog's paw, they can easily get between his toes and start burrowing into the skin, causing pain, infection and sudden onset lameness.
Also often found in the ear, grass seeds in this part of the body work their way down the ear canal until they come to rest by the ear drum, a particularly delicate area.
Spotting a grass seed injury
Grass seeds are very small, so you might not notice any signs of the injury on the skin (though occasionally you might a red sore or swelling on the paw). However, there are several behavioural signs to look out for. If the seed is in the paw, for instance, your dog may persistently lick the paw, or even start limping.
If it is in their ear, they will often start shaking and pawing at the affected ear - particularly just after the seed has entered. They might also hold their head to one side.
Grass seed injury treatments
Grass seed injuries typically require vet treatment, because it can be hard to get the tiny grass seed out - particularly as it won't show up on X-ray. Indeed, with paws, this can mean finding the seed is a particular problem, though it's made easier if there is a clear entry hole.
Vets will typically use tweezers to remove them from ears, or 'crocodile forceps' (essentially a very long pair of tweezers) to retrieve them from paws. Often, your dog will need to be sedated for this to be done.
How to prevent a grass seed injury
Certain breeds are far more at risk of grass seed injuries than others, thanks to the long fur around their ears and paws. Cocker and Springer Spaniels are most at risk, and to prevent grass seed injuries, it is best to avoid walking these dogs through long grass in the summer months. Being alert to the signs of grass seed injury, meanwhile, is an important part of preventing the problem from worsening.
Written by: Hannah Dyball