Bella & the grass seeds

Bella, the 7-year-old miniature schnauzer came to see Dr Nikki Frost at our Pukekohe clinic because she was licking at her foot. The previous year she had had a grass seed removed and her owners were concerned that this may be the cause again. Upon examination, her right back foot was inflamed between the toes, she had clearly been licking at it and there was some discharge present. (pic 1). However, one of her front feet also looked suspiciously like Bella may have been licking that one as well. (pic 2).

After shaving the fur between her toes of all 4 feet we found that all 4 were affected with areas between the toes that looked like little blisters that were painful to touch. Some had grass seeds still poking out of the skin (pic 3), but with others, the skin had closed over and little abscesses had formed. After injecting the areas with a local anaesthetic to numb the area, we were able to open up the blisters and removed 7 grass seeds from her feet (pic 4).  After her feet were bandaged up, she was sent home with pain relief and some antibiotics to clear up the infection caused by the seeds.





Bella and the grass seeds

Grass seeds are shaped like small darts and are found at the end of grass heads. Due to their very sharp point and long tail, they can easily attach to your pet and migrate through their body. Some can travel quite far, reaching the animal's internal organs if they are not removed immediately. The most common places that grass seeds are found include your pet’s eyes/eyelids, toes, coat/skin, ears, nose, and armpits. If a grass seed contacts your pet’s body, you may soon see redness and inflammation around the area, and possibly pus. A change in their behaviour may also be observed. An infection will likely develop within hours and the area will become painful to touch. 

The signs to look out for. These depend on the location of the grass seed.


A seed between the eye and the eyelid may cause the area to become red and inflamed, sometimes with discharge or tears. An ulcer of the cornea could result and possibly lead to vision loss.


A seed can enter the ear canal and irritate your pet.
Signs: Rubbing or scratching ear, redness, shaking its head or keeping its head at a tilted angle.


As you would expect, having a seed lodged in their nose will cause intense irritation, resulting in sneezing and pawing at the area. Signs: Sneezing, nasal discharge, pawing nose, difficulty breathing.


If a seed becomes stuck in your pet’s paw, you will quickly notice a change in the way they walk. 
Signs: Redness, inflammation, limping and licking of paws. 


Once grass seeds attach to the skin of your pet, there is a range of different effects that can occur. A pet may chew at an area where seeds have become attached to the skin, and the following may occur:

  1. Your pet can successfully remove the seeds.
  2. The seeds burrow deeper into the skin. If this occurs, swelling, abscesses, and open draining sores may result.

Protecting your pet

There are some ways that you can protect your pet from these sneaky seeds. You can:

  • Be particularly vigilant if you have a long-haired breed or working breed of dog. These are most at risk of picking up a grass seed. 
  • Try and avoid letting your dog roam or jump around in long grassy areas
  • Ensure all grooming is up to date and that long hair is clipped, especially between the toes.
  • After walks or time out in paddocks, take some time to groom your pet and remove any seeds. Focus carefully on their toes, ears and armpits.
  • Try to stay on top of mowing your yard every few weeks, as this often is where your pet will pick up their seeds. 

You can try to remove the seed with tweezers, if you are unsuccessful, call the clinic immediately. This is because the seed will bury deeper and become harder to remove. Often once it is lodged or difficult to find, surgery will be required. Especially if there is a possibility there is more than one grass seed affecting your pet.

Dr Nikki Frost BSc BVSc MANZCVS (Medicine of Cats)


Franklin Vets

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