Dog owners are all too familiar with the potential hazards we face when we’re in the great outdoors, whether your pet is licking a strange-coloured puddle or investigating a rather old animal carcass. However, sometimes dangers lurk where we least expect them, even in your garden. 

One such unlikely problem is the humble grass seed, which is capable of causing significant harm to our beloved pets. As the warmer months are – hopefully – on their way, we’ll explore why they pose a threat to dogs, how to recognise if your dog is affected, available treatments and steps you can take to minimise the risks.

What are grass seeds?

When we talk about grass seeds, this could refer to those you use for sowing or patching your lawn or the seed heads of various grasses commonly found in parks and natural landscapes. They’re often found in meadows and woodland during the summer months, and they are a problem to dogs because they can easily brush off into their fur during walks.

Grass seeds have very sharp, pointy ends, so although they’re tiny, if they become trapped in your dog’s fur, they can burrow down and pierce their skin. They can also get stuck in your dog’s paws, ears, eyes or nose. If your dog becomes injured by a grass seed, it can be very painful.

Why are grass seeds dangerous for dogs?

You’re probably wondering, why are grass seeds dangerous for dogs? While seemingly innocuous, these seeds have barbed structures that allow them to easily penetrate fur, skin and even mucous membranes. Once embedded, they can travel deeper into the body, causing a range of health issues, such as infections, abscesses and even organ damage, if left untreated.

All dogs are potentially vulnerable to grass seeds, but some breeds are particularly susceptible because of their coat type and habits. Breeds with longer, thicker coats – such as some types of retrievers, spaniels and terriers – are at higher risk as their fur provides plenty of opportunity for seeds to become trapped. Dogs who spend a lot of time outdoors, especially in grassy areas, are also more likely to encounter these seeds.

What are the symptoms to look out for? 

Common symptoms include excessive licking or chewing at a specific area, swelling, redness, discharge, limping, sneezing, coughing or difficulty breathing if seeds have been inhaled. If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to book your dog in for a vet consultation immediately.

What happens if a dog eats grass seeds? 

If a dog ingests grass seeds, it can lead to various health issues depending on the type of seed and the dog’s individual response. Some potential issues include:

  • Gastrointestinal irritation: Grass seeds can cause irritation and inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, leading to symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and discomfort.
  • Obstruction: Ingested grass seeds may be digested normally but they can also form a mass or obstruction in the digestive system, particularly if they clump together or become lodged in the intestines. This can result in severe abdominal pain, vomiting, lethargy and potentially life-threatening complications requiring surgical intervention.
  • Inhalation: If a dog inhales grass seeds while attempting to chew or swallow them, the seeds can become lodged in the respiratory tract, leading to coughing, gagging, difficulty breathing and potentially serious respiratory issues, such as pneumonia.
  • Allergic reactions: Some dogs may have allergic reactions to certain grass seeds, resulting in symptoms such as itching, hives, swelling or respiratory distress.
  • Infection: Grass seeds can carry bacteria or other pathogens, and if they penetrate the skin or mucous membranes, they can cause infection. This can lead to localised abscesses, cellulitis or systemic infections if left untreated.
  • Organ damage: In severe cases, particularly if a grass seed travels internally, it can cause damage to internal organs such as the lungs, heart or other tissues.

What should you do if your dog eats grass seeds? We recommend booking a consultation if you have reason to worry; if they ingested a significant amount, for example, or if they are displaying any of the symptoms mentioned above.

What is the treatment for a grass seed injury? 

Treatment for grass seed-related problems varies depending on the severity and location of the seed. In less severe cases, your vet may be able to remove the seed manually and prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection. 

However, if the seed has migrated deeper into the body or caused complications, such as abscesses or pneumonia, surgical intervention may be necessary. Inhaled seeds can require specialised procedures to locate and remove them safely.

Grass seed extraction case study

Here’s a video of a procedure we performed on a dog called Bramble. Bramble started coughing after running in the fields. When she was brought in, a grass seed was found in her right lung. This video shows the successful removal by Sarah, one of our vets, and she was assisted by Rowan, one of our nurses.

How can I protect my dog from grass seeds?

While it’s impossible to eliminate all risks associated with grass seeds, there are some simple steps you can take to minimise the chances of your dog encountering them:

  • Regular grooming: Keeping your dog’s coat well-maintained, especially during grass seed season, can help reduce the chances of seeds becoming trapped.
  • Avoidance: Be mindful of where you walk your dog, particularly in areas with long grasses and other seed-bearing plants.
  • Inspection: After outdoor activities, inspect your dog’s coat, paws, ears and nose for any signs of grass seeds and promptly remove them if you find any.

Grass seeds may seem innocuous, but they can pose a significant threat to our canine companions. By understanding the risks, recognising the signs of an issue, seeking prompt care and taking preventative measures, we can better protect them from the potential harm these tiny seeds can inflict. If you think your dog may be suffering because of grass seeds, contact us to book a consultation.

Published On: February 26th, 2024 / Categories: Latest News /

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