A long dry Hawkes Bay summer may be great for BBQs and trips to the beach, but also causes many grasses and weeds to dry out and scatter their seeds. Many of these seeds, especially barley grass seeds have a sharp point at the end with microscopic barbs present on the tail. When these seeds come into contact with your pet's coat, they tend to stick into the fur. The pointed end then penetrates into the skin and the one-way barbs stop the seeds coming out. If the seed is not removed immediately then it starts to track deeper and deeper into the tissue.
These seeds can track large distances through tissue causing excessive damage and infection throughout their journey. The situation is made worse as the body recognises the seed as foreign, so produces lots of reactive tissue around the seed in an attempt to ‘wall it off’ from our body. I’ve lost count of how many seeds I have removed from various parts of the body in dogs.
The seeds can enter any part of the body, but dogs with excessive hair or long hair are more prone to problems as the seed sticks initially into the coat. As the seed first enters the tissue there is a small hole with swelling and often a small amount of fluid discharging from it. As it begins to track, the initial hole may heal up, and only signs of swelling, infection and discomfort may be evident.
Common areas affected:
If you think that your dog may have a tracking grass seed it is important you visit your vet as soon as possible. If the seed has only tracked a small distance your vet may be able to remove it with tweezers. However if your dog is hard to keep still or the seed has tracked further, he/she will need a general anaesthetic to surgically explore the area and find the seed. This is not always easy as the swelling can be extensive and the seed very small!! I have spent many many hours trying the locate seeds, if only they had tracking devices! In view of this, prevention is a much better option.