Grass Seed Darts.
After our walk on down there with all four dogs, I spent probably six hours removing these darts from their coats. Mirabelle was very easy to deal with as her coat is loose and shaggy, Lulu is really trimmed quite short and so it is easy to spot them on her, Nelly however has a coat that hides them really well, but still, her coat is not overly long, but Odo, poor boy, the darts work their way very deep into his long coat, and he has the patience of a Saint while I go through it thoroughly with the aid of a pair of tweezers. These darts are quite impossible to remove easily, they are barbed and have a hook at the end. They penetrate the skin very easily and whilst we have not had any in their ears or eyes we do seem to get an abundance of them in their armpits and paws. I have removed hundreds of them just from this one walk!
Then, after a late afternoon visit to the butcher to get the chicken carcasses, they unusually were frozen, in two bags. Hmm, I usually decant them into smaller bags and freeze, but I couldn't seperate these. So I left them on the draining board to defrost overnight! Bad idea! Nelly reverts back to not understanding English when I tell them 'leave it', and very sneakily waits until I am asleep, then pulls down one bag of around thirty carcasses. In the morning, what do I find, just two carcasses left and the plastic bag on the floor! Well, at this point I have no idea of who has devoured them, probably they all did, but I had to wait until I was removing all the grass spears from Odo to really find out.
Odo must have ate the majority of them, the wind emanating from his backside was the most noxious, potent gas you could imagine, I had to suffer it full on as I had to remove the grass darts, but the visitors we had round to watch the England v Italy match, very sensibly left to watch the match in the pub!
Poor Odo, even he couldn't stand the smell!
Anyway, it is very important that you check your dog for grass darts after a walk, as the pain and suffering they cause, and the bill you may have to fork out to the vet, are easily avoidable.
The article below describes in more detail
Grass-Seed Darts and Potential Risks
Grass-seed darts are a potential danger to pets during the summer and autumn. There are many species of grass around the world that can present a threat, but two common problem species in the UK are Wall Barley and Barren Brome. Here we explain what to look for and the risks associated with
is commonly known as wall barley or false barley. It is a species of grass with a single un-branched seed head which can reach 10 cm long
is commonly known as barren brome, poverty brome, and sterile brome. It is a species of grass with drooping, branched seed heads (or spikelets), each containing 4-10 seeds.
Grasses with grass-seed darts have an ability to work their way into the soil and ability to attach to a dog’s or cat’s fur. Once attached, the darts can then work through the animal’s coat and ultimately can penetrate skin and enter deeper tissues.
Three features of the seeds that enable them to penetrate skin are:
Retrorse barbs face backwards from
the tip, so any movement tends to drive grass-seed darts forward into the soil
or deeper into an animal’s coat or orifice. Once the spikelet tip reaches the
skin it can be driven through the skin and onward into the deeper tissues by
the barbs acting as a ratchet. The presence of foreign material penetrating the
skin causes a local immune reaction. The grass-seed dart is accompanied by
microorganisms which can cause infection too.
Dogs suffer more than cats
Dogs suffer with grass-seed darts penetrating their skin and orifices far more than cats. This may be because cats are much more accomplished at grooming them out of their coats by
themselves. Any area of a dog’s body can be penetrated by a grass-seed dart, but there are orifices and areas which are penetrated most often
- Ears- Eyes- Groin
- Paws- Tonsils- Penis
- Arm pits (axilla)
- Nostrils- Vulva
What to do if grass-seed darts enter your dog’s ears
Ears are the most common orifice that grass-seed darts enter. They move down the external ear canal and can penetrate the ear drum entering the middle ear. It is possible for them to continue their journey deeper into the body and they may even enter the brain.
If on a walk your dog suddenly starts to shake
its head violently and grass-seed darts are present, you have to be concerned that one may have entered his ear. Unless it is at the very entrance to the ear it will require a vet with an auroscope and alligator forceps to remove it, with your dog possibly under sedation or general anaesthesia.
What to do if grass-seed darts enter your dog’s paws
Paws are the area of the
body where grass-seed darts most commonly penetrate the skin. They most often burrow under the skin on the top of the foot at the end of the web between digits. Here they cause a cyst-like swelling, due to foreign body reaction and infection, and a discharging fistula, which the dog licks frequently.
If you can see the tail of the grass-seed poking out it may be worth trying to pull it out, but if there is a swelling and a hole discharging pus it will require veterinary attention for removal.
What to do if grass-seed darts get in your dog’s arm pits
Arm pits are a less common site of penetration of grass-seeds; however, the seeds can quickly enter deeper tissue because the skin is very thin here and the dog cannot reach to groom itself.
Grass-seeds that penetrate at this point can sometimes enter the chest of a dog with serious consequences.
Grass-seed darts can be very challenging foreign objects for vets to retrieve – they are small and do not show up on
x-ray. Often vets resort to complex surgical operations under general anaesthesia to manage these foreign bodies. They will force dye into the discharging hole and then follow the dye, dissecting out the tract, the tissue reaction, and the grass-seed dart. The body can then start to heal.
Prevention is better than cure when dealing with grass-seed darts.
- This is a summer and autumn problem and is another good reason, in addition
to the heat, to have your dog’s coat stripped or cut short. Particularly around
the toes, ears, and undercarriage, including the arm pits and groin.
- Owners should avoid walking their dogs in areas where there is dart grass
- After each walk owners should check their dogs for darts:
- Between the toes and pads;
- In and around the ears;
- In and round the mouth;
- The arm pits;
- Groin areas
Veterinary Consultant to PetSafe®