Mean Seeds Season

Grass seeds are no joke. Many are dangerous for dogs (and even cats) in that they can easily penetrate outer skin through a dog’s paws, legs, eyes, stomach, personal bits, and ear canals. If left untreated, these injuries can be incredibly painful, and in a worst case scenario, seeds can work their way into a dog’s innards and cause damage that can be fatal.

Barbs found on some weed seeds keep it from falling off the dog’s coat. Other seeds are dangerous because they have sharp points that nature designed to penetrate soil the moment the seeds come loose from the plant. The same sharp points that enable a seed to take hold in the ground and begin to grow roots can work its way into a dog’s skin.
Bacterial enzymes will cause the animal’s hair and tissues to break down, but these tough seeds don’t break down inside the dog’s body. Sometimes, a dog can inhale or swallow a grass seed and it gets lodged in the lungs or stomach where an abscess may potentially develop.

Some of the most dangerous grass seeds to our dogs, grasses like cheatgrass and foxtail, will start being produced in the next couple of months and you should not only be on the lookout for them as you play, hunt, and walk with your dog, but you should start getting into the habit of doing dog-foot-and-body checks every day with tweezers at hand.

Indications that something like a foxtail as penetrated a dog’s nose or elsewhere is that he is sneezing or shaking his head.  Feel for strange skin spots or lumps, and as you examine your dog’s paw, separate the pads because that’s where seeds often end up.

The Grass Awn Project doesn’t seem to have been active for a number of years, but there are photos and good information at their site including case histories.

We hadn’t intended to go down this road.  We meant to share a link leading you to a report about the Jackson Hole Weed Management Association which has teamed up for the third year in a row with Teton County Weed and Pest, and Working Dogs for Conservation (the world’s leading conservation detection dog organization) to locate, remove and eradicate saltcedar and perennial pepperweed on the Snake River.  Read about how dogs are helping sniff out invasive seed sources near the Snake River here.

Our image is borrowed from Working Dogs for Conservation‘s website. We hope they don’t mind that we share their photo, but we want to brag about this marvelous organization that has pioneered ways to use our dogs’ extraordinary sense of smell to protect wildlife and wild places by building upon techniques from narcotics detection, cadaver detection, and search and rescue.  This photo is of “Finn,” a Labrador Retriever, one of the Working Dogs for Conservation dogs.

2 thoughts on “Mean Seeds Season”

  1. One day, out of the blue, my whippet started to lean his head to the side, which I recognized as some sort of ear problem. But on further examination, there was no redness or inflammation or excessive ear wax or infection. Turns out it was just one little grass seed that had entered his ear, causing him pain. Fortunately he managed to either shake it out or dislodge it, and he returned to normal. But I’ve heard of a whippet in the same situation that had to be sedated just so the vet could remove the grass seed that was in his ear.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Hindy. A vivid reminder that all breeds are impacted by “mean seeds,” not just the hairy ones. We’re glad you were so attentive to have noticed your guy’s situation!

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