dog in a field

Grass seeds in dogs

Grass seeds in dogs

Are you the owner of a dog who has been plagued by this summer hazard? How can something so tiny cause such a large problem?
Grass seeds are small (1-2cm long) and dart-shaped with a pointy tip. Though insignificant in appearance, the spiky point of the seeds enables them to penetrate your dog’s skin, potentially causing all sorts of trouble for your pooch.
So, if you have a dog who likes nothing better than bounding through fields of long grass, read on to find out how to keep your pet safe.

How do I know if my dog has a grass seed?

Grass seeds cause significant pain and irritation; the signs that a dog will show depend on where the grass seed is. Ears, paws, eyes, and noses seem to suffer most in grass seed season but as seeds can migrate almost anywhere, symptoms can be very variable. Let’s look at the main signs:
  • Grass seed in ear: head shaking, ear scratching, pain, red ear
  • Gras seed in paw: licking paw, limping, swelling on paw, discharge
  • Grass seed in eye: rubbing the eye, red eye, holding eye closed, weepy eye
  • Grass seed in nose: sneezing, nosebleed, rubbing nose
If the grass seed migrates after piercing the skin, signs depend on the location, but typically include a high temperature or painful swelling (abscess).

Which breeds are affected by grass seeds?

There are several predisposing factors which will increase a dog’s risk of grass seed foreign bodies:
  • Long coats
Grass seeds can lodge in long fur and from there work their way into the skin. Hairy paws and ears are a particular problem.
  • Floppy ears
Floppy ears have a similar effect to long fur, namely that they’re a great place for grass seeds to lodge and then work their way to a location where they can cause pain and irritation.
  • Behaviour
Dogs with boundless enthusiasm for life who like nothing better than racing through fields and exploring the undergrowth are likely to be at increased risk.
The simple answer is that any dog can be affected by grass seeds, but some are more at risk than others; most spaniel breeds including springers, cockers and cockapoos would be top of the grass seed high risk list!

What should I do if I think my dog has a grass seed?

If you think that your dog may have a grass seed, it is always best to contact your vet for advice. Treatment will depend on the location but in all cases, the sooner a seed is removed, the less likely it is to cause problems.

Treatment of grass seeds in dogs

  • Ear
Your vet will examine your dog’s ear with an instrument called an otoscope. Grass seeds can make the ear very sore, and some dogs will need sedation for a thorough examination of the ear canal. Once spotted, the grass seed can usually be removed with tweezer-like instruments called crocodile forceps. Your vet will check for any damage to the ear drum and for any signs of infection.
  • Paw
If part of the grass seed is visible, many dogs will allow the seed to be removed with no sedation. However, it’s often the case that by the time a grass seed is suspected, it has worked its way under the skin. Under sedation or anaesthesia, your vet may make a small incision to try and locate the grass seed and remove it using forceps.  With some pain relief, a bandaged paw and some antibiotics if required, your pooch should be back to normal before long. A boot specially designed for dogs may be useful to protect the paw and help prevent licking while it heals. Mikki - Dog Boot - Coats & Clothing - Accessories - Dogs (
  • Eye
Your vet may use some local anaesthetic eye drops to make examination more comfortable for your dog. However, sometimes sedation will be needed to safely examine the eye. Grass seeds can lodge in the fleshy pink tissue round the eye (the conjunctiva) or behind the third eyelid. After removing the offending seed, your vet will check that there has been no other damage to the eye. Often, a special dye will be used to check the delicate surface of the eye (the cornea) and make sure that there are no scratches or ulcers. Lubricants may help to soothe the eye but always ask your vet’s advice first. Beaphar Eye Gel for Dogs, Cats & Small Animals - 5g - Ear & Eye - Health - Dogs (
  • Nose
Noses are tricky areas to investigate. They are very sensitive, and sedation or anaesthesia will almost always be needed. If the grass seed is in the nostrils, your vet may be able to spot it with an otoscope and remove it with forceps. If the seed has managed to work its way deeper into the nasal passages, referral to a veterinary hospital may be required to try and track it down.
Unfortunately, grass seeds don’t show up on x-ray and if a grass seed can’t be easily located, your vet may recommend referral to a veterinary hospital for specialist investigations including CT scans.
You can reduce the risk of your dog picking up grass seeds by keeping their fur trimmed short, especially around their paws and ears. Keeping away from fields of long grass is a good idea over the summer months but dogs will manage to ‘find’ grass seeds in the unlikeliest of locations, so always check your pooch when you get home from a walk wherever you have been; pay particular attention to their paws, ears, eyelids and lip folds.
Why not check out the Petwell Blog, where you will find all the latest Petwell news!
Shop the story