Grass seed with dog in the background

Check your dog all over for spikelets if they've been walking in long grass.

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Are grass seeds (spikelets) dangerous to dogs?

By Dr. Liz Barton MA, VetMB, MRCVS Veterinarian

Updated on the

Dogs may love running around in nature, but if it's through long grass they may pick up grass seeds and these can cause all sorts of problems for them. 

Spikelets are the small spikes making up the flower head at the top of long grasses, and are commonly called grass seeds. As dogs run through long grass, the spikelets can get trapped in their coat, in their ears, between their paws, up their nose or in their eyes. If these are not removed quickly, they can cause irritation and injury to the soft tissues. They can become dangerous if they then track internally through the body and can cause abscesses inside the body, even affecting the vital organs in rare cases.

What can I do if my dog gets a grass seed or spikelet on them?

It is a good idea to thoroughly check your dog’s paws, coat, eyes and ears after they have been walking in long grass. Remove any grass seeds caught in their fur – you may need to use tweezers to do this. If they have a grass seed in their eye, you can try bathing it out using cotton wool soaked in cooled boiled water. If your dog is shaking their head, sneezing or scratching their ears repetitively, or you notice areas of swelling, redness or pus, it is best to see a vet.

Keep this information handy in the spring and summer! ©Wamiz

How can I stop my dog from getting grass seeds or spikelets?

Some dogs are very prone to getting grass seed- or spikelet-associated problems, especially dogs who enjoy running through fields and have longer curly hair, such as spaniels. Keeping their coat short – especially around the ears and between the toes – can help to reduce the number of grass seeds that get caught. Make sure you thoroughly check their coat and body all over after each walk. Avoiding the fields in grass-seed season and walking on areas of short grass reduces the risk.

What home remedies can be used for spikelets in dogs?

If your dog has a grass seed in their eye, one thing you could try is to bathe it out using cooled boiled water. If there is a grass seed in their ear, it is best not to put any substances into the ear canal to flush it out. This is because if there is damage to the eardrum, this can make the problem much worse and even push the grass seed into the delicate middle ear. If you notice areas of swelling, redness or pus on the skin or between the toes, you can try a poultice by applying a hand-hot towel to the area to try to draw the pus out. If this does not resolve the problem, it is best to speak to a vet to reduce the risk of further damage and tracking of the grass seed into the body.

Can grass seeds kill a dog?

It would be very rare for a grass seed to result in a dog’s death. In rare cases, grass seeds can track into vital organs, such as the lungs or spine, causing abscesses leading to pneumonia and paralysis, for example. These conditions can require extensive surgery and prolonged treatment, but in most cases should be treatable if the grass seed can be removed. This often requires specialist imaging and surgery, as a tiny grass seed can be very difficult to locate within the body.

When should I talk to a vet?

If your dog is persistently shaking their head, has a painful eye, is sneezing frequently, or has a sore, swollen lump on their skin, it is best to speak to a vet as soon as possible. Their eyes in particular are very delicate and should be treated as urgent. If you have tried home remedies and the symptoms persist, you should speak to a vet. You may also find that there is often more than one grass seed, or that there can be secondary infection, inflammation and damage to the soft tissues or eye, which may then need treating.

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