Anyone whose dog frequents wild areas of parks, unused industrial land, farm land, many areas of the countryside or even less well-tended gardens (like mine!!). . . that’s virtually every dog owner I would say! Should be aware of the serious damage that can be caused by the seeds - often known as “barley spears” - of the FOXTAIL GRASS (Hordeum murinum or Wall barley) and other related grass varieties. Naturally, if you live in an arable area where barley is grown, this applies too although of course you should never allow your dog to roam into standing crops of any variety.
Foxtail grass

Why are the seeds of these grasses (cereals) so dangerous?

Each seed on the seed head is pointed at one end and has barbed “hairs” at the other. The pointed end can easily be driven into the dog’s skin by the pressure of passing through vegetation or undergrowth or can later travel through the coat and penetrate the skin by the general movement of the dog and the pressure caused by lying down or rolling. Due to the tiny hairs or barbs which are backward-pointing, the seed will not naturally drop out and


This action is facilitated by the barbs ... rather like a fish hook which goes in easily enough but is very tricky to get out!

A single seed - magnified view!
Note the direction in which the barbs lie

The embedded seed will probably cause the dog to lick the site (if it can be reached) or it might become infected . . . or both, and a very painful red, sore swelling will ensue. IF this is noticed in time, the seed can be removed by your vet, hopefully without too much trouble. Serious, potentially VERY serious, problems can develop if the seed is allowed to travel. It will be extremely difficult to locate the seed and, in some cases, major surgery may be needed to locate and remove the offending article. You may imagine the damage that could be caused if a dog inhaled a seed and it entered its lung for example.

More spiky seeds.

QUESTION : what is the key to avoiding this potential danger?

ANSWER : CHECK YOUR DOG EVERY TIME YOU RETURN from an outing when it has been in or through areas of long or longish grass. This might seem tiresome, but it will be time well-spent and could save your dog a lot of suffering and you a lot of money (and suffering!!)

If you have a Newfoundland (as I do) you may have a blaster ... USE IT ... they are not just for wet coats, but should be used regularly on dry coats to rid them of dust, dander and .... grass seeds!!

If you have barbets you probably won’t have a blaster, but if you do, you can use it on a dry coat again, to blast out any debris (personally I wouldn’t recommend its use on a wet barbet coat), but in any case . . .

INSPECT and FEEL your dog all over; check for seeds especially the feet (between pads and toes), head, muzzle and behind ears, chest, fronts of legs, axillae and groin. If you suspect an embedded grass seed seek veterinary advice sooner rather than later!!



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