If your dog is anything like mine, then they would rather lounge in the grass than on a bed or sofa. But did you know that grass seeds can embed themselves in your dog’s skin, paws, ears, eyes, and even lungs, causing potentially serious problems?
When treated quickly, most embedded grass seeds are little more than a painful annoyance. The problem is that countless owners don’t know that grass seed isn’t entirely safe for dogs, let alone how to identify the symptoms of infection. The information below will let your dog continue enjoying the backyard while you enjoy a little extra peace of mind.
- Is Grass Seed Safe For Dogs
- How Can Grass Seed Harm Your Dog
- Symptoms Of Grass Seed Penetration
- Treating Grass Seed Infection
- Keeping Your Pet Safe
- Best Types Of Grass Seed With Dogs
- Verdict: Is Grass Seed Safe For Dogs
- FAQ Grass Seed and Dogs
Is Grass Seed Safe For Dogs
Grass seed is far from the biggest threat to your dog to exist in the world. But it is much more dangerous than the average pet owner realizes. Understanding the risk and symptoms of embedded grass seed is key to keeping your dog safe while they play outside.
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How Can Grass Seed Harm Your Dog
While grass seed seems fairly innocuous, a closer look reveals that the seeds are very pointed. This shape is no coincidence. It aids grass seed in penetrating and “sticking” to the soil while it waits to germinate. Unfortunately, it also means that each grass seed is essentially a large splinter just waiting to be stepped on.
Some tall grasses produce barbed seeds called awns. According to the AKC Canine Health Foundation, awn-producing grasses (which are often found in unmown fields and ditches) are the most dangerous to dogs.
Dogs are at the highest risk of picking up grass seeds for several reasons. The average dog spends lots of time in residential lawns, public parks, and even agricultural fields. Their paws (usually) aren’t protected by any type of footwear. And they don’t just walk on the grass — they roll, dig, and sleep on it, too.
Symptoms Of Grass Seed Penetration
Although there are several signs that a dog may be suffering from embedded grass seed, many owners fail to realize the severity early on. If you notice any of the symptoms below, be sure to schedule an appointment with your vet sooner rather than later.
Unless it is lodged in a sensitive location — e.g., the armpit or groin — your dog probably won’t show any signs that a grass seed has become embedded in its coat. This is why it’s so important to maintain your dog’s coat and regularly check for debris during the warmer months.
According to Charles Sturt University, dogs with medium-length coats are at the highest risk of grass seed infections. It’s also theorized that removing the dense undercoat found in many dog breeds decreases the likelihood of embedment.
The most common sign that a grass seed has penetrated the skin is a firm lump located somewhere on your dog’s body. More often than not, this lump will be painful to the touch. It may also be noticeably filled with pus.
Symptoms of a grass seed embedded in the eye include redness, swelling, excess tears, and signs of pain. Keep in mind that you won’t always be able to see the seed at fault as it may be lodged deep in the eye cavity.
If your dog has a grass seed stuck in its ear, you may notice uncharacteristic head shaking, scratching, and pawing at one side. Symptoms such as pain, swelling, redness, or drainage will progress if the seed isn’t removed by a veterinarian.
Your dog may respond to an embedded grass seed in their paw by limping or lifting its foot when they stand. You might notice them bite the paw in question, and they may be unwilling to let you touch it. If the grass seed has penetrated fully into the skin, you might notice a visible hole or a swollen abscess.
Treating Grass Seed Infection
With the exception of shallow, newly embedded grass seeds that can be removed at home, treatment should always be overseen by a veterinarian.
Your dog’s vet will determine what, if any, medication is necessary to fight off infection and treat abscesses around the wound.
If antibiotics are prescribed, be sure to complete the full course according to your vet’s directions to prevent further complications.
Keeping Your Pet Safe
In spring and summer, avoid unkempt grassy areas that have gone to seed. Such areas may include prairies, agricultural fields, roadside ditches, and more. Check your dog’s coat and paws for seeds immediately after spending time in unmown grass. If they have a thick or long coat, brushing is advised.
Dogs can also pick up grass seed that has been planted in lawns, parks, and other areas. While this seed is more likely to end up embedded in a paw than anywhere else, it’s still important to avoid areas covered with seed. Keep an eye out for small patches of grass seed hidden in established lawns as well.
Can dogs walk on grass seed?
Dogs should be kept away from new grass seed at all costs. Allowing a dog to walk on grass seed is not only dangerous. it is also liable to damage or even kill off the young grass.
How long do I need to keep dogs off grass seed?
I recommend waiting 8 weeks before letting your dog walk across fresh grass seed. Once the grass has grown to about 3 inches tall, there is minimal risk of the seeds harming your dog or vice-versa.
Best Types Of Grass Seed With Dogs
Sadly, no grass seed exists that is completely safe for dogs. You will always need to take precautions when starting, patching, or overseeding your lawn. With that said, there are a few popular varieties that I believe are better suited to dog owners than others:
Turf Style Tall Fescue
Tall fescue is a very hardy turf grass that will hold up to heavy foot traffic, including rough-housing canines. This means less chance of thinning or bare patches that will require reseeding in the future.
Also, fescue seeds are larger than many other types of grasses, so there is slightly less risk of inhalation or embedment.
Perennial Rye Grass
Ryegrass is another variety that holds up well to dog wear and tears. Notably, it tolerates pet urine much better than other popular turf grasses. Like fescue, the seeds of ryegrass are on the larger side.
If you plant Kentucky bluegrass from seed, you must keep your dog away from the area. The seeds are very small, even compared to other grass types, and likely to embed in paws, ears, and noses. Once the grass is established, though, it withstands abuse better than most alternatives.
Verdict: Is Grass Seed Safe For Dogs
If you were to ask the average vet whether or not grass seed is safe for dogs, their answer would likely be no. But that certainly doesn’t mean you need to keep Fido away from all grassy areas. It just means that you need to take a few precautions to ensure they stay safe and healthy during the spring and summer months.
Steering clear of areas that were recently seeded or that are unmown is the best way to prevent embedded grass seeds from harming your dog. Checking their paws and coat for stuck seeds is an excellent habit to develop post-walks.
And, if all else fails, knowing the symptoms associated with grass seed infection will ensure you get treatment as quickly as possible if problems do arise.