March 21, 2023

What's the deal with dogs and grass seeds?

What's the deal with dogs and grass seeds?
Dr. Chris Brown

The words ‘grass seed’ might not strike fear into most pet parents. But for the few that have experienced one ‘wandering’ inside their dog or cat, you know it’s pretty frightening.

So I thought I’d take you into the weird world of grass seeds. 

You see them on just about every walk every day of the year. But through a bizarre series of events, that grass seed on that long stalk of grass can sometimes end up actually inside the body of your furry family member with pretty dramatic consequences.

And it’s not as rare as you might think.

In fact, in peak grass seed season, I might see one per week in the vet clinic…


What makes grass seeds so dangerous?

It’s just one thing. Their shape.

They’re engineered to be annoying! Genuinely. In fact, a grass seed’s dream is to be carried far away to start a new plant. And they do that by being ‘sticky’. Those barbs are designed to catch on animal fur and clothing.

But certain grass seeds have something else.

An arrow-head shape with backwards facing barbs. These are like fish hooks. They go in forwards but then can’t go in reverse.

So here are the 5 steps to how it happens:

Step 1: Your dog (or cat) walks through long grass

Step 2: They brush past a grass seed and it’s barbs (awns) stick in their coat

Step 3: If that grass seed’s pointy end is facing their skin, then the act of scratching (or even just lying down) pushes the pointy seed into the skin

Step 4: Due to the angle of the barbs on the seed, any movement from walking or pressure from lying down pushes the seed further in but not out. Eventually it can disappear altogether.

Step 5: Once inside, any movement of the body causes the seed to move too. But again, because of the arrow head shape of the seed, only further in. In fact, a seed can migrate for up to 30cm (1 foot) inside the body. 

All the while, intense amounts of infection and inflammation develop. Making your dog or cat quite ill.


The signs of a grass seed:

It makes sense then that these are the warning signs to look out for:

  • A firm feeling ‘knot’ in their coat
  • Sudden pain when touching one area
  • Repeated licking of one spot
  • Limping
  • A lump on the legs, belly or neck
  • A weeping wound that won’t heal


Grass seed hot spots:

  • Paws
  • Ears
  • Eyes
  • Nose
  • Belly


Common problem grasses (with the pointy seeds!)

  • Spear grass
  • Wild oats
  • Barley


How to avoid them:

Sure. There’s no doubt a grass seed is bad luck. But there are some easy steps to avoid problems:

  • Don’t let them run in long grass when it’s in seed
  • Know your grass seed season (late spring, summer, early autumn)
  • Brush them regularly, removing knots and tangles that could be playing host to a seed. Using a detangling and cleansing spray like my No Time to Wash Spray will really help here…
  • In the same way you feel for a tick, run your fingers through their coat feeling for any seeds, knots or lumps that shouldn’t be there. Pro tip: Use the Tick Stick to remove spiky seeds. It's perfect!
  • Get skin wounds and lumps looked at by your vet. Especially if they’re not healing…


The Tick Stick
The Tick Stick

There’s no doubt a grass seed is serious stuff. But once it attaches, you do have time to detect it before it goes on that frightening journey. Knowing your little mate’s lumps and bumps can be life saving!

No Time to Wash Spray
No Time to Wash Spray

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