Dogs with injuries caused by grass seed penetration are a common finding at this time of year. Most at risk are hairy dogs , like spaniels, that are walked in meadows or woodland where the Foxtail grass is found, although wheat and barley fields also pose a risk.
The small spikelets that break off the foxtail are barbed and designed to stick to fur in order to spread the seed. When the tough, needle-sharp end penetrates the skin the barbs guide the seed in one direction only- inwards. Sites commonly affected are between the toes, inside the ear, under the front legs in the “armpits”, and even into the conjunctiva of the eye. They can also be inhaled into the lungs.
The seeds, being of vegetable matter do not show up on x ray and so are very difficult to find.
You might notice that your dog suddenly becomes lame with a large swelling between the toes. Often a point of entry can be identified and also a swelling further up the foot with a tract or sinus connecting. If in the ear they cause acute pain, which often shows as persistent head shaking. If in the lungs, dogs can become very ill.
Your vet is the best person to advise and treat. If left, these seeds can penetrate deeper and cause many problems. Seek help if you see your dog showing any signs of sudden discomfort or lameness.
Dr Mandy Elgin