Grass seeds: Seemingly innocent but unequivocally dangerous and potentially lethal, these little brutes can easily get caught on your pet’s fur and embed themselves to their skin very quickly. If left untreated, grass seeds can cause a whole heap of problems. These problems range across the spectrum from a minor irritation all the way to the worst consequence imaginable.
Grass seeds are great carriers of bacteria and once they penetrate the skin, infection is inevitable. If left untreated, the infection could spread or the seed could move around internally and cause severe internal damage. Once they are inside the body, there is no treatment plan other than surgery to find them and remove them along with prolonged use of antibiotics and antifungals to prevent reinfection at the site of the surgery. It’s a lot of avoidable stress.
What does a grass seed look like?
Grass seeds are tiny, generally 1-2cm in length, and they come in a variety of shapes. They are usually dart shaped and are made with spikes in such a way that once it pokes through the outer skin barrier, it easily lets gravity push it in further. One end of it is very pointy and could very easily penetrate the skin whilst the remaining bit is the tail that expands the seed’s surface area to increase the chance of it being picked up by a being or by wind.
What are the symptoms?
Depending on where the grass seed penetrates or enters the body, a variety of different symptoms would make it apparent that your dog or cat may have a grass seed invasion.
Keep in mind, wherever it breaks the skin, there will be an infection on the skin including redness and swelling. If you spot this then immediately take action and head straight to the vet.
How to get rid of grass seeds?
If you feel as though there is a slight possibility that a grass seed is in or on your dog, head straight to the vet because it’s most likely that it is in a position where you cannot reach it. If you see a grass seed tangled within the coat of your pet, immediately get rid of it with a pair of tweezers.
If you see it embedded into your pet with some of it still sticking out, act with caution and use a pair of tweezers to extract it from the base where it meets the skin. Do not pluck from the top because there is a chance it could break, making the extraction of the remainder still in the skin a difficult task for the vet. Even once you’ve removed it, keep it in a tissue or sandwich bag of some sort and head to the vet to take extra caution and let them fully investigate the potential seeds that may be lingering elsewhere on your pet as well as the one(s) you’ve plucked.
If you can see inflammation, redness or swelling but cannot spot a grass seed, you have to go directly to the vet because it’s likely that the grass seed has submerged itself into their body and as a result would cause significant internal damage rapidly. In this case, surgical exploration would be required.
Should you not be able to get to a vet, you have very limited options. If you suspect the seed is in the ear, by no means try and extract it because you could push it deeper and cause eardrum or tissue damage. Try filling their ear canal with warm olive oil and massage their ear. There is a possibility that the grass seed could float straight up. Even if doesn’t float up, the oil would have softened the tissue where the seed is lodged, making it easier for the vet to extract.
Finally, for grass seeds lodged in paws but undetectable, you could smear some magnoplasm paste – a drawing ointment that helps lure out foreign objects embedded in the skin.
Please remember that these are only options to consider if you are unable to get to a vet immediately.
How do I keep grass seeds away from my pet?
Whilst there isn’t much that can be done to prevent the disastrous effects of grass seeds from affecting your pet, there are a couple of things that could go a long way.
Firstly, keep your pet away from long grassy areas and dry grassy areas since the seeds can catch on to their coat and skin very easily and are present in massive proportions within these areas. You should also keep your own lawn mowed to add a substantial layer of protection at home. Keep it as tidy as possible and sweep away any plant materials or offending seeds to reduce the risk even more.
In addition to that, make it a daily routine to groom their hair as that is one of the best ways to identify any potential infection spots. Keep in mind that any matts could be concealing grass seeds. Carefully trawl through and evaluate their eyes, ears, nose, armpits, groin and the middle of their toes – which is where the seeds get lodged very often. You should especially do this every time they come back from walks or have gone through grassy areas to be cautious and early at spotting and swatting them out. You could even just cut their hair short to reduce the surface area upon which the seeds could attach themselves.
For a more barrier type protection, there are some accessories you can purchase to protect them when out for walks including vests that cover their chest and abdomen. For their feet, use some doggy boots that are thick enough to not have the seeds poke into. They would also help keep mud and dirt away from the inside of your car and house – double win! A nifty little trick for their ears when out on walks is to tie a bandana or some partially permeable material, e.g. pantyhose, around their ears to protect them but also enable airflow to not block their hearing entirely.
Most importantly though, you must always be on a look out for these symptoms, particularly during the spring and summer months. If they shake their head a lot, frequently sneeze, have become sluggish and lazy, etc. they may have a grass seed somewhere so get to it sooner rather than later because later isn’t a fun nor healthy track to go down.
They may be small but they can do a lot. Be vigilant and get those grass seeds before they get your pet.