he notorious grass-seed season is underway, but don’t be fooled by their small size because they can cause huge headaches for you and your pet. That’s why now is the best time to pay attention to some matters of a hairy nature.

Grass seeds are abundant when the weather warms up, says Dr Tash Watts. ‘It’s not only domestic animals that are affected – it can be a major concern in farm animals as well. The seeds have tiny barbs that help them attach and then there’s really only one place the can go – through the skin. They then tend to track further inside the body, causing quite a bit of pain, and ultimately lead to infection and abscess formation.

Commonly affected areas include paws, ears, eyes and noses but they can get stuck just about anywhere, says Dr Tash. ‘Signs that pets may have a grass seed include shaking their head, licking at their paw, a sore and watering eye, sneezing, or a lump that may or may not be discharging pus. Sometimes the signs are fairly vague, such as going off their food or becoming depressed and lethargic.’

Finding the actual grass seed that’s causing the problem can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack, Dr Tash continues. ‘We often need to give the animal sedation or an anaesthetic to perform a proper examination and locate the offending seed(s). Clipping the hair right back is the most important part of the process, especially in dogs or cats with long or dense coats of hair. I remember one case where we simply lost track of the number of grass seeds in the dog’s coat. Luckily there were only two seeds that had actually penetrated the skin superficially. When we were done, it was like we had shorn a sheep.’

Commonly affected areas include paws, ears, eyes and noses

Dr Tash says that the best way to reduce the risk of grass seeds being a problem in your dog or cat is to make sure their coat is kept as short as possible during spring and summer. ‘The benefit of regular grooming is three-fold. It reduces the chance of your pet picking up seeds in the first place, it makes it much easier to find them and it keeps the animal cool. Owners should also check their pets after they’ve been on an outing, paying particular attention to the paws, eyes and ears.’

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