VET’S VIEW: Grass seeds – the summer menace...

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IF YOUR dog has ever come home from a summer walk frantically shaking its head or licking at its paws, you are probably familiar with the menace that grass seeds pose.

The usual culprit is a grass known as wall barley, and after a spell of dry weather, the shed seeds are easily caught in the coats of passing dogs.

If you examine a seed, you’ll find it’s covered in microscopic spines that force it to move in one direction. This is the reason why they readily migrate, even penetrating the skin.

The ear and feet are the most common sites, but, occasionally, the seed will enter other orifices, such as the mouth or nose, or enter the axilla or groin area.

A dog that is shaking its head or sneezing violently after a walk should be taken to the vet, who may administer a sedative to look for, and remove, any grass seeds.

Seeds that penetrate the skin prove a particular challenge, as they will continue their migration away from the entry point, often making it difficult to locate them.

So, if you notice your dog licking its feet more than usual, or find a small, discharging hole, get it checked as soon 
as possible. Dogs with dense fur between their toes, such as spaniels, tend to be most at risk, so it is worth thinking about having the coat stripped or clipped short for the 
summer months.

Wall barley is commonly found on roadsides and rough grassland, so it is difficult to avoid, but do get into the habit of carefully checking your dog for seeds after a walk, paying particular attention to the toes, ears, and undercarriage.

Grass seeds are a common source of summer problems, but these simple measures will help to reduce the risk – and may save your dog a lot of unnecessary distress.