The dreaded grass season is upon us. Every year as seeds dry and start to fall from plants the risks to your dog increase. As kids we used to throw the full ‘dart’ seeds at each other and, whilst this was rather annoying, especially when accompanied by stories of all manner of creepy crawlies living in the missiles, we were never in any real danger. This is not the case for your canine pets though …. .
Sadly, many dogs suffer discomfort from the cunning design of foxtail grass seeds. The ‘darts’ we are all familiar with are actually made up from numerous individual seeds. The ‘darts’ break down as they dry and a smaller clump can easily attach itself to a dog’s fur. If a single seed finds a spot where it can get a grip it can embed into your pet’s skin. Paws, particularly between claws (or toes), are high risk areas but ears are also susceptible and almost any part of the body can be affected.
Responsible dog owners will look out for evidence of seeds after country walks at this time of year. Local councils seem less inclined to keep streets and footpaths clear of vegetation these days so don’t imagine your dog is risk free if you are mostly a town walker. It can be really hard to spot an individual seed stuck in your best friend’s fur – especially if his or her coat is a light colour (unstripped Airedale Terrier fur is especially difficult!). Regular brushing or combing will help rid the coat of seeds but there’s no substitute for inspection between toes, between pads and the inside of ears. This can be testing … none of our Airedales have liked their pads ‘messed about with’. You will discover seeds fall from your pet’s fur by themselves so vacuuming and shaking his bed and car rug will help stop them re-attaching.
However caring you are, there’s a chance a seed will make it into your canine companion’s skin somewhere. We’ve had close shaves with both Murphy and Lottie, and Hamish had to have surgery to remove a seed in the Summer of 2004. If you and your dog are unlucky it is important to recognise the early signs a seed has succeeded in getting a grip. Once in your pet’s skin a seed will irritate causing him or her to lick or paw at the site. If it’s in an ear you will see head shaking and scratching. If the seed can be removed quickly all will likely be well but the design of these seeds mean that, once established, they will keep burrowing – always moving forward, never backwards. One report we read suggested a seed might eventually reach your dog’s brain if not removed. The chances are an infection will set in fairly soon and your pet will be very uncomfortable and at serious risk if the infection gets a hold.
To sum up, try to remove seeds by brushing even if you haven’t seen any, regularly inspect the difficult areas, watch out for symptoms and if you find a swelling your dog is worrying (a probable infection) get him along to the vet. You will be lucky if your pet never has a seed attach to him but if it is removed early he will be fine …. If not ….