The dangers of grass seeds

Depending on whereabouts in the UK you’re based, whether or not you have a problem with grass seeds will vary. It all depends on the type of grass in your local area.

The barbed nature of 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.

Which is why, every year, we see many claims for grass seed-related issues. In the case of 2-year-old Jet, 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 unusually lethargic. On examination, it was found that a grass seed had lodged by his rib, creating a pocket of fluid which had damaged the rib. The cost of removing the grass seed was £2,849.81.
  • Tayto, a three-year-old Cockerpoo had a temperature and lethargy. Antibiotics saw a slight improvement before he deteriorated, and a CT scan revealed a foreign body lodged in his ribcage. The grass seed had migrated from the nasal passages to the lung, causing it to collapse. The total cost of his veterinary treatment came to £6,216.97.

Always check your dog after every walk and remove any grass seeds you find, which can save a lot of discomfort and cost. It’s also a good opportunity to check for ticks – which in some areas are hugely prevalent this year. Short videos on grass seeds and ticks, presented by our Senior Veterinary Advisor, Robin Hargreaves, give further advice and can also be found on our blog!

Please note: not all grasses are dangerous to pets as they do not all produce seeds of the type to cause harm.
Regarding cats: Our partner, the charity icatcare, states: We all agree that cats should be provided with grass either from an outdoor or indoor source (in the form of a pot) to enable them to exhibit their natural grass-eating behaviour. 
Study: Characterization of plant eating in cats - Benjamin L. Hart, Lynette A. Hart and Abigail P. Thigpen - University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, 1 Shelds Ave, Davis, CA 95616, USA