As the weather changes to spring and warmth, grass seeds can become a real problem. These innocuous little things can attach to your pet’s coat and from there they can begin to cause trouble.
Grass seeds (technically called “awns”) are small, normally only a few centimetres long, and shaped like a dart. Their sharp points can easily pierce the skin, and tiny “barbs” on the outer layers act to keep it attached and help it work its way further in.
Grass seeds can carry bacteria, and once they penetrate the skin an infection is virtually inevitable. Left untreated the seeds will slowly burrow their way through the skin and continue to move around internally – causing severe damage.
The signs that a grass seed has begun to embed itself in your pet depends on the part of your pet’s body that is affected (see our infographic for more information), but wherever it breaks the skin there will be redness and swelling.
If you spot this, the best plan is to immediately head straight for the vet. Once inside the body there is no treatment plan available other than surgery to find and remove the seed, and an extensive regime of antibiotics to prevent re-infection of the surgery site.
This is horrible for your pet and can be very expensive for you.
But, like many issues our pets face, prevention is always better than the cure.
So, what can you do to keep your pet safe?
There are two simple things that we recommend you can do to help protect your pet from these pains in the grass.
First, keep your lawn or yard area neat, tidy, and well-trimmed.
Grass seeds appear more commonly in longer grasses, so freshly mown lawns and slashed grasses are much less likely to have grass seeds hanging about looking for a fresh coat of fur to latch onto.
A well-kept lawn or slashed paddock won’t totally eliminate the risk of grass seeds, but it goes a long way to reducing it.
Second, you can brush your pet’s coat regularly.
Catching grass seeds while they are still in your pet’s coat, rather than when they have started to embed themselves in the skin, saves a lot of hassle and prevents the serious health issues that can occur when the seeds begin to dig their way into the skin.
Whether your pet has been playing on your own freshly cut lawn or has been running in the grass at the park, it’s a great idea to give their coat a good brush at the end of the day.
Combining these two steps – a well-kept lawn and regular brushing – will dramatically reduce the risk of grass seeds getting embedded in your pet’s skin.
But unfortunately, we can’t eliminate the risk entirely, at least not without stopping our pets from enjoying time outside, so it becomes an issue we, as pet owners, must watch out for.
If you see redness and swelling on your pet’s body and suspect a grass seed may have become embedded in their skin, call us straight away. The sooner we act the better the prognosis will be for your pet, (again, see our infographic for more information).
Each spring we see a flood of cases of pets – especially dogs – with grass seeds embedded in their skin coming through our clinic doors.
We hope that by getting people to follow these two simple bits of advice – keep a regularly mown lawn and brush your pet every day – we can massively reduce the number of pets we see suffering the discomfort of a grass seed stuck somewhere under their skin.