Cheatgrass season is upon us again. You have probably seen it in your yard, at the park, or walking around town. Also known as foxtail, June grass, or downy brome, these are invasive weeds common to our area. The dried out seeds, or awns, are what end up causing problems for our pets. These awns are hard and pointed at one end and covered in unidirectional barbs which allow the seed to embed in skin and migrate through tissues.
Every summer we see numerous dogs (and some cats) who are suddenly limping, licking their feet, rubbing their eyes, or digging at their ears. These grass awns seem to have an affinity for getting stuck in areas that are difficult to access and we often need to sedate your animal to allow us to pull the awns from their ears or from draining tracts between their toes. We can also see these seeds get stuck in nostrils, under third eyelids, between teeth, under matted fur, or migrating anywhere in the skin where they may have been introduced.
Check your pet for these small grass seeds every time they come inside this summer- pay special attention to their feet- and clean off any awns you find. If you suddenly notice any red, painful swellings on their body, bring them in right away so we can pull migrating seeds out promptly. Long haired dogs may benefit from daily brushing to help remove loose awns or a careful hair trimming around the feet to prevent awns from becoming trapped.