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  • Writer's pictureJames Wickham

Grass seeds and curly haired dogs

It's that time of year again - when seemingly every inch of beach-side reserve harbours the summer evil that is the grass seed!

For our curly-coated and fluffy companions, these seemingly innocuous structures are a menace due to their ability to penetrate the skin and cause a foreign-body reaction.

In most cases, this merely presents as a mild irritation to our dogs and we may notice them licking furiously at a foot or limping slightly for a couple of days.

For some dogs however, grass seeds set up a nasty infection, most commonly between the toes. Very often these seeds need to be removed under local anaesthesia and sedation. A poultice bandage is applied to encourage drainage and a short course of pain relief is given.

If left in place, these seeds, due to their shape, have the ability of migrating to distant parts of the body. In one recent case in New Zealand, a grass awn managed to reach the spinal cord of a Cocker Spaniel and cause paralysis of the back legs!

Signs to look out for include redness, swelling, discharge and pain in the affected area. Constant licking and chewing of one foot is a fairly consistent finding.

A good habit to get into is running your hands over your dog's coat after a walk and removing any grass awns you find. Check the bottom of the ears. Gently feel between the toes and underneath the feet, between the pads. Many dogs are foot-shy and you may need to train your dog to tolerate this by rewarding them with praise and treats.

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