Dangers of Grass Seeds to Your Dog This Summer

31st July 2023 8 min read

Guest Blog: Anna Webb

This year we have seen an increase in grass seed related injuries. Whilst this seed looks harmless, it can cause great harm. Anna explains why and what you can do to avoid a visit to the vet.

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Grass Seeds: What are They and Why Dog Owners Should be Vigilant on Walks

This year, reports of dogs in an emergency situation from a grass seed have hit the highest levels in recent memory. That’s according to many vets who have reported more cases than in previous years.

This is partly due to the new environmental campaign “No Mow May’, which has the best intentions of supporting our insects, birds and small wildlife. However, this thoughtful environmental campaign can come at a price for dog owners!

Having to fork out expensive vet bills to remove grass seeds that have insidiously penetrated their dogs’ paws, noses, ear canals, eyes, and even their private parts!

In most cases, minor surgery to, for example, an ear canal will fix the problem, by removing the pesky seed, but in some rarer cases, they can cause death.

With many new dog owners post-pandemic, the danger of what appears to be innocuous is underestimated. Others are literally oblivious to the danger that grass seeds pose.

They’re as pesky as biting bugs, even as life-threatening as overheating, and, thanks to No Mow May, are more than ever before a common cause of the summertime blues.

Despite looking harmless enough, on close inspection grass seeds are shaped like a dart, about one to two centimeters long, with one end that can penetrate your dog’s outer skin.

Potentially turning a summer’s walk into a veterinary emergency, these arrow-like seeds attach to hairy coats, paws and ears as your pooch brushes past or goes sniffing in the undergrowth.

Eager to bury themselves, grass seeds aim to burrow into the skin for a firm grip, and if not removed in time, they can migrate into the bloodstream, and cause infection, get lodged in the throat, end up in your dog’s lungs.

Many popular breeds like Cockerpoos, Spaniels, Labradors, and Golden Retrievers with their natural hunting instincts coupled with their thick double coats make them easy targets. But all dogs are vulnerable.

Smooth-coated dogs are equally as susceptible but offer more visibility with less ‘coat’ when checking ears, eyes, and paws for these grassy arrows.

Breeds like Bull Terriers, German Shepherds, Whippets, Toy Terriers, and Frenchies, with upright ears are like radars for seeds offering an open cavity for precision landing and a smooth passage into the depths of the ear canal and beyond into the throat.

Some dogs love chewing on moist fresh grass, but the risks outweigh any benefits. Not least in case of any lurking slugs, but if grass seeds are ingested or in-haled they can work their way quickly into the chest and the lungs.

This can lead to a serious emergency surgery known as a ‘PyoThorax’, which is at least very invasive, at most life threatening.

Prevention is always better than cure!

Try and avoid long grassy areas, which can be difficult especially if your dog is a natural-born sniffer. Work on your recall training -consider grasses in high summer a dangerous distraction that must be recalled from. Turn the grass seeds into a training opportunity.

Not least training a full body inspection with your dog and the ability to bath your dog post walk if needed -to flush out any lurking seeds. Plus the ability to regularly trim your dog’s hairy paws makes it harder for seeds to get a grip in the first place.

Watch out for any behaviours like over licking, limping, head shaking, sneezing, coughing, or rubbing the eyes. And it’s worth a visit to your vet -simply to give you peace of mind if you’re concerned.

Most seeds can be removed in time. Yet it will make a hole in your bank balance. For me as with everything -prevention is better than cure!

TOP TIPS:

  • Ascertain the weak spots of your dog’s conformation, coat type and personality. For example, thick-coated, long-haired dogs need regular bathing and grooming to more easily spot a grass seed. An enthusiastic gundog driven by hunting instincts to sniff in bushes and grasses needs monitoring more than a Chihuahua walking on a lead. Pointy ears on breeds like GSD’s, Bull Terriers, and Frenchies offer a super place for seeds to accumulate. Whereas scent hounds like Bassetts, Beagles, and Dachshunds are more to inhale a grass seed.
  • Tune your recall training indoors and in your garden before and during ‘grass seed season – typically from mid-June to mid-August. Use this time for positive training, and obedience activity instead of galloping freestyle. Keep it fun and focused, rewarding with the new high-value treat range from Paleo Ridge. The aim is to keep your dog close to you in short-mown grass rather than running through long grasses.
  • Monitor your dog’s sniffing, guide them to short-mown areas, and work preventatively with awareness. Even put ‘go sniffing’ on a cue, and use treats to encourage your dog to ’find’ them in safe mown areas. This fulfills your dog’s desire to sniff, but safely, and on your terms. Be present with your dog NOT on your smartphone.
  • Practice bathing your dog at home, or visit your groomer more regularly to trim hairy paws, and keep coats and eyebrows neat. Practice checking your dog all over as a full body inspection, especially in-between their toes, under their arms, the base of their tails, ears and eyes.
  • Be aware of any different behaviours like over-licking their paws, headshaking, scratching their ears, coughing, sneezing, rubbing their ears and eyes.
  • Act quickly and call your vet, it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Anna Webb – Canine Nutrition and Behaviour expert, Anna combines her psychology degree, with study at the College of Integrated Veterinary Therapies (CIVT) and over 20 years of experience. Host of the award-nominated A DOG’S LIFE podcast, she lives in London, and is owned by Prudence, a Miniature Bull Terrier and Mr Binks, a re-homed English Toy Terrier.

www.annawebb.co.uk

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