At this time of the year grass seeds can be a really big problem. They are only small, and can easily become trapped in your dog’s fur when on walks, or when rolling in the grass. Common areas for them to become trapped are in the fur of the paws, particularly between the toes, the ears and around the armpits, and they can even get inhaled and work their way to the dogs lungs. The problems caused by grass seeds are mainly due to the fact that they are very sharp and pointy, much like a small arrow. This means that it is very easy for them to become trapped in the fur, and also embed themselves in the skin.
Grass seeds often get caught inbetween the toes of the dog’s foot (the interdigital spaces). With the seed already attached to the fur it tends to work itself deeper into the space between the toes….it then can very easily pierce the skin and end up burrowing deep into the tissues. This is very painful and will require veterinary removal by surgery. Grass seeds often work their way into the ear canal all the way to the delicate ear drum.
Although all dogs are at risk of picking up grass seeds, the longer haired dogs who have feathery, furry paws are more at risk, because there is more fur for the seeds to get trapped in. Similarly it is much easier for the seeds to become trapped in the long hair on the body and under the armpits than it is in shorter coated breeds.
How to avoid problems
It is a good habit to get into checking your dog all over for grass seeds after each walk….checking their ears, their coats, their armpits and, most importantly, inbetween their toes, and remove any grass seeds you find as soon as you can.
You can trim the fur around your dogs paws and ears to minimise the likelyhood of seeds getting trapped – the less fur, the less likely they are to become trapped! If your dog is not used to being handled, or is uncomfortable, make sure that you pair the experience with food. Either have someone feeding your dog delicious treats while you gently check him all over and inbetween his toes, or give him a yummy stuffed frozen food toy such as a Toppl or a Lickimat while you do so. This will ensure he builds a positive association with these kind of handling processes. Remember though, if at any time your dog wants to move away, let him, and then allow him to come back before you try again. Giving your dog choice in these procedures is SO important, and will mean he will be more comfortable being a more active participant if he knows he has a way of asking you to stop if he feels uncomfortable. Longer term, it is important to very slowly build this practice up so you work on short handling sessions when you DON’T have to remove any grass seeds 😉
How do I know if my dog has a grass seed stuck?
if you notice your dog shaking his head a lot or pawing at his ears he may have a grass seed in the ear canal…if you notice him licking his paws a lot, is lethargic or becomes a bit lame, check inbetween all of his toes to see if you can see a grass seed….if you notice a strange swelling on one of your dog’s toes this could mean a grass seed has already worked its way into the tissues….if your dog starts sneezing excessively, a grass seed may have been inhaled through the nose. For any of these situations, and if a grass seed has pierced the skin between the toes and is working its way in to the skin sufficiently to cause discomfort, your first port of call must be your vet.
For something so small, grass seeds can cause huge problems for dogs, so it is far better to get into the habit of checking your dog over and removing any grass seeds when they are trapped in the fur before they get a chance to do any damage.
Polite Paws Dog Training July 2018