Grass seeds and dogs

Grass seeds and dogs

  • Grass seeds are a common problem for dogs during the summer months
  • They can get into ears, eyes, paws and work their way under the skin
  • Dogs may shake their head if a seed has gone down the ear or lick their paws if one is stuck in between their toes
  • Check your dog over if you’ve passed through long grass during a walk


What problems can grass seeds cause?

This grass seed removed from a dog's paw was a centimetre long

Grass seeds are a common problem, particularly during the summer months. They are attached to the tops of long grass stems and can easily brush off onto your dog during walks. Although tiny, they have the potential to cause real pain to your dog. The seeds have pointy ends and are very sharp so they easily become trapped in a dog’s fur and can burrow down the coat to pierce the skin. Unfortunately, in rare cases, the grass seed can go under the skin and travel to other areas of the body. They have even been known to end up in the chest area. The seeds can also get stuck in eyes and ears. Once they start travelling around the body they can be very difficult to find.

What dogs are at risk of problems with grass seeds?

All dogs can be affected by grass seeds, but they cause much more of a problem in breeds with feathery toes that enjoy bounding through long grass, such as springer spaniels. It is a good idea for owners to check the bits of their dogs with long hair, in particular the feet and ears, after exercise – especially if you have walked through areas with long grass.

How do I tell if my dog has been affected by grass seeds?

Typically, with a grass seed in the paw, owners will notice a painful swelling between the toes.

Dogs who have seeds stuck inside their paws are also likely to lick at them constantly and vigorously and be limping. Your dog may suddenly start shaking their head and pawing at their ear after a walk if they have got one or more seeds down the ear. Sudden onset violent sneezing may mean a seed in the nose.

Is there anything I can do to protect my dog from grass seeds?

Keep hair around ears and paws short to minimise the risk of grass seeds sticking and burrowing into the skin. Inspecting your dog after a walk and removing any seeds will also help reduce the likelihood of any penetrating the skin.

What should I do if I think grass seeds are causing problems for my dog?

If you get back from a walk and notice a grass seed in the coat or on the surface of your dog’s skin, remove it straight away. But if you spot a seed that has started to burrow into your dog’s skin, or if your dog is licking or chewing at a sore place, or think your pet might have a seed in his or her eyes or ears, contact your vet.




Case study: Blue Cross puts Jerry back on his paws after grass seed surgery

Springer spaniel Jerry looks forlorn in a kennel as he recovers from surgery

Poor Jerry arrived at our Hammersmith animal hospital in London with a mystery swelling on his paw.

Jerry's toe was shaved to we could extract the seed from his toe
We shaved Jerry's toe so we could remove the seed from his paw

The springer spaniel had been licking away at his toe so much that it had become inflamed, so his worried owner booked him in to see our vets.

We examined him but needed to investigate further and Jerry was given an anaesthetic so we could remove the cause of the problem. Inside Jerry’s toe, just under the skin, we found the culprit of his discomfort – a grass seed.

The seed we extracted from Jerry’s toe was about a centimetre long.

Nadine Lock, Chief Veterinary Surgeon at Blue Cross Hammersmith, said: “Grass seeds are a common problem at this time of year. In fact, I removed one from each ear of another dog in the same afternoon that Jerry had his surgery.”

— Page last updated 01/04/2019