With summer fast approaching I thought that I would write about a subject which comes up each year.  I am talking about grass seeds and the problems they can cause. I don't know if all owners are aware that dogs can have grass seeds pierce their skin and end up travelling through their body. 

I am writing this to share my experience in the hope that it might make a few more people aware of the damage they can do. I'm sure you have all come back from either a walk or a days working with your dogs and noticed spear grasses caught up in there coat.  This is obviously soon rectified by either taking it off or coming it out, but are you also aware that some spear grasses and grass seeds can pierce the skin and travel through the body?.

Last year we had several occasions where both the spinoni and setters got grass seeds stuck.  We had four found in our dogs feet (not all the same dog) and three that had got into ears.  The  foot ones were found after the dogs had gone lame.  On inspecting the foot you can see a very small hole where the seed has gone in.  This can be harder to spot on a spinone due to the coat.  These are easily dealt with once the problem has been spotted.

You can also get them as I mentioned in the dogs ear.  The tell tale signs are that the dog suddenly starts shaking it's head constantly and often scratches a lot normally on a walk or just after.  This is different from when they decide to shake slobber everywhere as it is a constant head shaking. Last August I had taken some of the dogs for a walk and on return one of the spinoni was shaking his head non stop and rubbing it along the ground.  I checked in his ear for anything obvious and took them back to the car.  He continued to shake his head all the way home.  I guessed what had happened as we have had it happen many times in the past  with the setters.  I phoned the vet when I got home and took him down.

After examining him they confirmed that he had a grass seed lodged in his ear and that they would need to sedate him and remove it.  I handed him to them and after he had covered their wall in spit they took him away to do it. They called me fifteen minutes later to say he was ready for collection.  I was surprised at the time that they had been so quick but they told me he was well behaved.  Over the next week his ear still seemed to be bothering him and sore, but I was told that this was to be expected.  We then changed vets for another reason and a week later he got the same thing in his other ear.  We took him to our new vets to have this seed removed and asked them if they could check his other ear whilst he was sedated.  We were called back an hour later to pick him up.

On arriving we were handed the grass seed and then told that whilst examining the other ear they retrieved a grass seed which in their opinion had been in there about a week.  As a result of it being left in there it had set up an infection around his ear drum and he was put onto antibiotics.  The vets said they thought it was the one that the other vets were asked to remove.  When I asked the original vets if I could see the grass seed at the time they told me that they had incinerated it but they had removed it. The antibiotics didn't work and others were tried.  Swabs were sent to Bristol for their help and they suggested another type of antibiotics.  After about four weeks the infection had spread to the other ear.  Both ears by then had become smelly from the infection and were getting worse.  We tried other medication all of which either didn't work or only worked for a few days.

This went on for months until the decision was taken at the end of January to operate.  He was now appearing to be in pain (which he had not been before).   The decision was not an easy one as the vets didn't know if he would have any hearing after as it was both ears.  All of our dogs (ten) live indoors and we wondered whether or not it would affect his temperament. He had his operation at the vets school at Bristol.

He came home the next day with a large supply of painkillers.  During the first couple of days he was very quiet and sore.  However he then began to pick up and after two weeks joined the younger ones on their walk.

 He is now back to normal and is much happier.  He plays with the puppy's toys which he has never done before.  His temperament hasn't been affected at all as he is still as gentle as ever.  We are not sure exactly what he can hear.  He has got some hearing as he sometimes responds when  you say his name behind his back.  On a walk if he gets his back to us he doesn't hear (but that's like any spinone!).  Hetti our spinone bitch goes off to get him and brings him back if he wanders off.

 After all of this we are even more aware of checking for any signs of grass seeds etc.  So please check your own dogs as I would hate this to happen to someone else.

Shona MacPherson