Raising awareness of serious grass seed complications

Your experience of foreign body tracts due to grass seeds will vary depending on the type of grass in your local area

09 July 2020, at 7:05am

The barbed grass seeds typically affect an animal’s feet – especially hairy feet – and ears, but we also see claims where they have travelled to the eyes, nose and other areas of skin. With the awns of the seed allowing it to travel only one way, they are unlikely to easily fall out.

Black dog outdoors

Every year we see many claims for grass seed-related issues. In the case of two-year-old Jet (pictured on the right), the result was very traumatic for both the dog and the owner, as the owner explains:

“Jet had shown some pain in his back on and off for some time. He was given anti-inflammatory drugs when he showed symptoms, and it seemed to get better each time. The last time it happened though, the drugs didn’t help, and our bouncy boy looked very sorry for himself. He’s usually so happy and wags his tail constantly, but we could tell something was seriously wrong.

“A CT scan showed that he had a massive abscess on his back legs and spine, which appeared to have been caused by a grass seed which he’d inhaled several months previously. It had worked its way down to his back legs and caused an abscess, which required Jet being opened up from his chest to his pelvis. This caused significant muscle damage which required a lot of therapy to build up again.

“Our poor boy has gone through a lot in his short life, this operation was a very traumatic experience for both us and him. We have kept the extracted grass seed as a keepsake!”

Other claims we have handled connected with grass seeds include:

  • April, a three-year-old cat with a grass seed stuck under her upper eyelid. She required a local anaesthetic to remove the seed, leaving a shallow ulcer where the seed had been rubbing on the cornea. Fortunately, due to the rapid removal of the seed, the ulcer resolved rapidly with no scarring. The cost of her treatment came to £244.46
  • Ludo, a two-year-old Springer Spaniel, was seen with a two-week history of general lethargy. On physical examination a mass on the costal arch was observed. Ultrasound revealed a fluid pocket and it was discovered that damage had been done to the rib where the grass seed had lodged at the costrophrenic junction. The cost of removing the grass seed was £2,849.81
  • Tayto, a three-year-old Cockerpoo, was presenting with pyrexia and lethargy. Antibiotics saw a slight improvement before he deteriorated. Clinical examination observed a soft swelling on the caudal thorax. CT revealed a foreign body caudomedial to the 10th rib at the costochondral junction. The grass seed had migrated from the nasal passages to the lung and had then lodged in the costochondral junction. Due to additional complications of pneumothorax, the total veterinary treatment came to £6,216.97

Helping to raise awareness of the dangers of grass seeds can be a great help – especially if you are in an area where they are a particular problem. While social distancing remains in place, it’s a great time to make the most of email newsletters and your website to remind clients to take care.

Simple advice to check their dog after a walk and remove any grass seeds that are there can save a lot of discomfort and cost. And at the same time, it’s also a good opportunity to remind owners about checking for ticks – which in some areas are hugely prevalent this year.

Short videos on grass seeds and ticks, presented by Robin Hargreaves, are ideal to share with your clients, and can be found on Agria's website.

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