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Planting the Wrong Seed!

Spring is in the air, the clocks have gone forwards, the temperature is rising and the plants are budding. What a wonderful time of year! For many dog owners you will be going out more and enjoying the newly sprouted meadows with your dogs. It is also the time of year us vets reach for our instruments, preparing ourselves for the rise of limping dogs with grass seeds.

What is a grass seed I hear you say? It is the part of long grass which falls down on the ground to help with further growth of the grass. It also happens to be extremely sharp and has the knack of impaling itself, particularly in your pet’s paws. This can lead to swellings with pus occasionally from the exit point on the paw. Usually, it is a painful but common emergency which will result in limping. What vets get concerned with is if it is left untreated and it starts tracking up the leg and into the blood system. It can travel from the leg to the lung and become a life threatening condition.

Baxter's story

Grass seeds do not exclusively end up in paws as lovely 2 year old Baxter demonstrated in June 2019. He presented to our Surbiton branch with one of our lovely vets Kirsty because he was feeling sick, had a temperature and was panting. Kirsty performed a full clinical exam on Baxter and found a swelling on his neck which she sampled with a needle, something we call a fine needle aspirate. This is a great tool for us to take a sample from a part of the body and look under the microscope for the type of cells we can identify. In Baxter’s case she found pus with white blood cells making Kirsty suspicious of an abscess.

Due to Baxter’s distress, Kirsty decided to admit him to sedate him and cut into the abscess to see what the cause was. A blood test before the procedure helped to inform Kirsty if there was an underlying cause for the fever from a different body system; this came back as normal which made her think his problem was localised to the abscess. What she was surprised to find was, I’m sure you might have guessed, a grass seed! After retrieving the seed and flushing the abscess site then suturing it up, she returned a much brighter Baxter to his lovely owner in the evening. Due to the location and the fact that Baxter is a Chihuahua, it is unlikely it tracked from the foot but more likely it impaled itself in the neck.

Unfortunately, with some wound repairs, it can leave space behind which fills up with a natural body fluid which can cause swelling. This happened with Baxter so the following day a drain was added to site which keeps the wound slightly open and allows natural drainage to occur and for complete healing to happen. With some antibiotics and pain relief to carry on at home, Baxter made a full recovery and 7 days later was fully discharged from our care. He is a model patient and one of the more unusual grass seed cases that we deal with but nothing we aren’t happy to help out with.

Don’t let grass seeds stop you from enjoying the freedom the change in season brings but be aware of them when out in the field and don’t hesitate to ask us for anything if needed!