Is Grass Seed Dangerous for Dogs?

The Dangers of Grass Seed for Your Dog

The information in this article was reviewed and approved by registered veterinary nurse, Beth Walker

Animed Veterinary Nurse, Beth Walker

Grass may seem fairly harmless but it can sometimes be dangerous for your dog, especially in the summer months. This is when grass produces seeds in order to propagate itself and spread. In this blog, we’ll explain why grass seeds pose a danger to dogs, how to tell if your dog has been injured by a grass seed, and how to avoid them in the first place.

Where Do Grass Seeds Come From?

Grass seeds are naturally produced in late spring and early summer when grass begins to propagate itself. Some types of grass in the UK need to be quite tall before they will produce seed heads, which is why well-mown grass may not produce any.

Grass seeds are most commonly found in meadows and woodland areas.

What Do Grass Seeds Look Like?

Grass seeds are usually arrow-shaped with sharp, pointy ends. They are very small, usually only one or two centimetres long. They are shaped this way to allow them to anchor into the soil, but unfortunately, their shape also makes them perfect for burrowing into the skin of our passing pups.

Why Are Grass Seeds Harmful for Dogs?

Grass seeds can easily become attached to the fur of a passing dog. Because of their sharp ends, grass seeds are then able to pierce the skin and become trapped in different parts of your dog’s body, particularly the paws, ears, eyes and nose.

As your dog moves around, grass seeds can be pushed deeper, burrowing into the skin and even sometimes moving around the body under the skin. In rare cases, they have been known to end up in the chest area.

Grass seeds are very difficult to find once they have burrowed under the skin. They don’t show up in x-rays, and don’t usually come out by themselves due to their pointed shape.

As well as causing severe irritation and pain for your dog, grass seeds can cause infections, inflammation and abscesses.

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How Do You Know if Your Dog Has a Grass Seed Injury?

If your dog has been affected by a grass seed injury, they are likely to demonstrate signs of pain and discomfort. Specific symptoms will depend on where the grass seed has embedded itself in your dog’s body.

Grass Seeds in the Paw

It’s common for grass seeds to become lodged between your dog’s toes, easily penetrating the thin skin there. When this happens, it may appear sore and swollen looking, and there may be a raised red lump. Dogs with a grass seed in their paw might also excessively lick or nibble at the affected area, as well as limp.

Grass Seeds in the Eye

Redness, swelling or a weepy discharge coming from the eye are all signs that a grass seed has become stuck there, particularly under the eyelid. Dogs may also paw at their eye and blink excessively. Grass seeds in the eye are considered an emergency as they can scrape against the eye and cause a lot of damage.

Grass Seeds in the Nose

Occasionally grass seeds can get stuck inside your dog’s nose. You may notice sudden, violent sneezes and nasal discharge from your dog if this is the case.

Grass Seeds in the Ear

If a grass seed has lodged in the ear, your dog may persistently shake their head, scratch their ear, rub along the ground and tilt their head to one side in an attempt to remove it.

Grass Seeds in Other Areas of the Body

If a grass seed has travelled under your dog’s skin to another part of the body, they may seem lethargic, have a temperature, or lick or nibble a certain area of their body.

What Happens if a Dog Eats a Grass Seed?

If your dog eats a grass seed, it may simply be digested as normal, causing no problems. However, it could become lodged in your dog’s throat, or even pierce the digestive tract and pass into surrounding tissues and organs.

What to Do if You Think Your Dog Has a Grass Seed Injury

If you spot a grass seed on your dog’s fur that has not yet pierced the skin, you can remove it immediately yourself.

If you can see that it has pierced the skin, or you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above, see your vet as soon as possible. The symptoms of grass seeds can be similar to lots of other common conditions in our pets, so it’s important to mention to your vet if you have been walking in areas with grass seeds to help reach the correct diagnosis as quickly as possible.

The longer a grass seed is left in your dog’s body, the more difficult it’s likely to be to remove it, and the more potential damage it can do. It’s best to get your dog treated as soon as possible.

Occasionally the grass seed is visible or palpable just under the skin, and there may also be a clear pathway showing where the grass seed has migrated further into the body. In these cases, it may be possible for your vet to pull the grass seed out using specialist tweezers. This can be very uncomfortable for your pet and will likely require sedation.

In some more extreme cases, your dog may require further diagnostic investigation and a larger operation to locate and remove the grass seed.

How to Avoid Grass Seed Injuries

Grass seed injuries can be very nasty for your dog, so it’s always best if you can help them to avoid being affected in the first place.

You can take the following steps to reduce the risk of your dog sustaining injuries from grass seeds:

  • Avoid areas with long grass
  • Check your dog’s fur after walks and remove any grass seeds you find, especially if you have been in grassy areas like meadows and woodland, or you’ve spotted grass seeds on your walk. Don’t try to remove one yourself if it has pierced the skin however, as this should be done by a vet
  • Keep your dog’s fur trimmed around the paws, toes and eyes to reduce the chances of grass seeds getting caught there
  • If you’re worried about injuries to your dog’s paws, you could consider dog boots for extra protection

Wrapping Up

With the sun out and the plants blooming, dog walks during the summer months are a real joy. But it’s also the prime time for grass seeds to make mischief, so make sure you stay vigilant when you’re out and about. Avoid long grass where you can, and regularly check your dog’s fur, especially round the paws, ears and eyes so that you can remove grass seeds before they pierce the skin and start to cause problems. Never try to remove an embedded grass seed yourself if it has pierced the skin – always see a vet so that it can be removed safely and effectively.

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