Most people know the dramas that come with spring time, especially if they own a hairy dog breed because this is when grass seeds go wild. For those of you who might have bought a puppy during the autumn or winter period, you might not have experience this yet.
So here is an article to raise awareness on how such a little piece of nature can wreak such havoc when it comes to dogs. Grass seeds are nature’s way of dispersing part of the plant in order to propagate and what better way to move around than attaching to some fur! In nature, most wild animals have straight or coarse hair so grass seeds literally just attach as the animal passes and then fall off or are eaten during grooming where it might then get pooped out and grow into a plant.
But these days, dogs don’t all have straight or coarse hair and we are now in an era where more and more owners are buying themselves an Oodle of some sort and this spells trouble! Grass seeds love curly hair but it also traps it and so the problems begin because rather than just fall off like in nature, the barbed seed works its way forward and in until eventually it creates a small hole in the skin and enters the body.
Once it enters the body, it continues on its adventure creating all sorts of damage along the way until it maybe pops out. Unfortunately most embedded grass seeds breakdown as they travel in the body so their fragments create a reaction as a foreign body would and this results in infections.
The most common site for a draining sinus, which is the hole where the grass seed entered, is between the toes and it often looks like a swelling or little hole in the webbing and there is blood and/or pus oozing out. Sounds yuck because it is yuck and often very painful. And if it hasn’t popped yet, when it does, you often find fragments of seed or a whole seed in there. This does need checking at the vets as sometimes it requires surgery and most often the infection needs addressing too.
The other common spot for a grass seed to hide in is in the ears and they can cause a lot of pain once they get in. If your dog is shaking its head a lot, walking with its head tilted, scratching at its ear a lot, walking in a circle, then this means you need a trip to the vet to check if there is anything in there. If your dog is calm in the clinic, the seed can often be removed while being restrained however some dogs need sedating because of the pain and fear.
So if you own a hairy dog and have plans during spring, to take them running in the park or paddocks, around wetlands, in the countryside, through grasses and into weedy areas, please make sure you inspect it as soon as you get home and remove any sign of a grass seed on the coat. If you wait until the next day, the seed will very likely have already move under the coat and begin working its way in.
Marianne from Mutts grooms dogs and is busiest as we come into spring and as the coats come off, she sees anywhere up to 50 grass seeds sitting under the fur and often small sores where the seeds were about to push through. This is why it is so important to keep the hair shorter during this period or go over the coat with a fine toothed comb to remove the offenders.
So get ready hairy dog owners, the next few months can be potentially challenging and one way to avoid any problems is to keep checking for the grass seeds and manually removing them or combing them out or get their hair trimmed so they are easier to find and if they have already beaten you to the fur, get your vet to look at it!