One summer day, I examined a concerned client’s dog because she was limping and furiously licking her paw. During the exam, I noticed swelling and a small hole between her toes. I explained to my client that the likely cause of his dog’s symptoms was a grass seed in the dog’s paws. In this article, I’ll explain what grass seeds are and the types of risks they pose to your furbaby’s paws. Then, we’ll look at how you can know if your pooch has a grass seed in his paw and what you can do about it.
What are grass seeds?
Often found in meadows and fields, grass seeds are tiny, pointed seeds that grow at the top of long grasses. They are most prevalent in the summertime. The awns have sharp, hooklike ends that can attach to the fur and burrow into your dog’s skin when he wanders through the fields.
Grass seeds pose various risks to your dog.
- The hooked awns usually carry bacteria, so when they enter the skin between your dog’s toes, they can cause inflammation and infection in the foot
- Grass seeds can enter the ears and work their way to the eardrum
- Grass awns can enter the eyes causing inflammation and itching
- Grass seeds can burrow into the skin from other body areas such as the armpit
- Dogs can inhale grass seeds, and they can lodge in the nasal passages or migrate to the lungs
What do I need to know about grass seeds in my dog’s paw?
Grass seeds are very small, and you may not notice them on your dog’s paw unless you look for them. The problem is once they attach to the fur between your pup’s toes, the awns make their way to the skin surface and the sharp ends easily penetrate the thin epithelial layer. Grass seeds burrow into the fleshy part of the foot causing extreme pain and infections.
If an awn works its way between your dog’s toes and penetrates the skin, he may exhibit signs such as:
- Constantly licking at the affected paw
- Rubbing the paw against a surface
- Sudden lameness/limping
- Holding paw off the ground
- Sore, inflamed foot pad
- Painful swelling between the toes
- Wet, red spots or wounds around the foot or between the toes
Some ways you may prevent grass seed injuries and infections are:
- Check your dog’s paws immediately after any walks in the grass. Look for grass seeds and remove them before they have a chance to burrow into the skin.
- Groom your dog regularly and give him a quick brush down after walks.
- Trim the hair around your dog’s paws and between his toes to keep it short. This may help reduce the risk of grass awns attaching to the hair.
- Keep your dog away from long grasses
- Watch your dog for signs of grass seeds like furiously licking his paws or sudden lameness.
What should I do if I suspect my dog has grass seeds in his paws?
If you suspect your dog has a grass seed wound or you see a grass awn penetrating your dog’s skin, call your veterinarian and schedule an appointment. The awns have barbed hooks that make extraction more difficult. Your dog’s doctor should have the tools to safely remove the entire seed.
Usually, you’ll discover a grass seed injury because your dog licked or chewed the area enough to cause a wound. While you’re waiting for your furbaby’s appointment, you can do some things at home to ease your pal’s discomfort and prepare for the visit to the clinic.
1. Cage rest
Put your dog on cage rest to allow the wound time to heal. Lots of activity can aggravate the wound and may push grass awns deeper into the tissues. Keeping your dog quiet during the recovery period helps minimize inflammation and promotes healing.
2. Trim the hair between the toes
Trim the hair between your dog’s toes to allow easier access to the wound site and reduce itching/licking which can slow the healing process. Your veterinarian will probably shave the hair away from the wound when to find and extract the grass seed. During the recovery period, continue to keep the hair short. This will allow airflow to the wound and reduce itchiness.
3. Use an E-collar
Because the wound will be itchy, your dog will naturally lick the area. The problem is that the tongue may abrade the surface and prolong healing. If your pooch is an incessant licker, put an E-collar on him to prevent licking or chewing on his foot.
4. Bandage the foot
Applying a bandage to the affected foot is another way to prevent licking or chewing. This method also protects the paw from environmental contaminants or irritants that may prolong the healing process.
5. Soak your dog’s foot
You can use a soothing footbath to reduce itching and inflammation. There are several options that you can try.
- Epsom salts – Soak your dog’s foot in 1 cup of Epsom salts to 1 gallon of warm water mixture for about 10 minutes. The salt content helps to kill any bacteria and promotes healing.
- Oatmeal bath – Oats contain compounds that have powerful anti-inflammatory and skin-protecting effects. Create an oatmeal bath soak by mixing 1 cup of finely ground oatmeal with 6 cups of warm water. Soak your dog’s foot for about 15 minutes to soothe his itchy paws.
- Green tea bath – Soak/steep several green tea bags in your dog’s bathwater and soak his foot for about 5 minutes.
Coconut oil contains omega fatty acids that help reduce inflammation and promote wound healing and other nutrients including medium-chain triglycerides that have natural antibiotic, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. To help soothe the area, reduce itching, and support your dog’s recovery, apply a little coconut oil to the wound.
When should I call my veterinarian?
If your dog exhibits signs that he has a grass seed in his paw like sudden lameness, constant licking at his paw, and swelling between the toes(listed above), you should contact your veterinarian immediately. Do not attempt to remove grass seeds that have already penetrated the skin. Because of the barbs, it may break in half if you try to pull it out, leaving part of the awn inside your dog’s body.
Frequently asked questions
How can I remove visible grass seeds from my dog’s paws?
If you inspect your dog’s paws and see a grass seed in the fur or on the skin between his toes, you can remove it as long as it hasn’t penetrated the skin. You may try to remove grass seeds that are already partially embedded in the skin with a pair of tweezers, but we recommend that you call your veterinarian.
The barbed end on a grass awn makes the removal of a partially embedded seed difficult. You risk snapping the seed in half and thus leaving part of the awn behind. The fragment may continue to travel through the tissues and enter the bloodstream causing severe health issues.
Should I seek veterinary assistance for grass-seed-related paw problems?
Any time you suspect a grass-seed injury to your dog’s paw, you should contact your vet. The seeds can cause tissue damage and infections. Your dog’s doctor has the tools to remove embedded grass seeds and treat your furbaby’s injuries.
Can grass seeds cause serious health complications?
Grass seeds usually carry bacteria. When they enter your dog’s body through the footpad, armpit, ears, or another part of the body, they have the potential to cause infections. Additionally, some grass awns travel to internal organs and cause tissue damage that leads to health complications.
Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.
Are there any home remedies for relieving grass-seed-related paw issues?
When your dog sustains a grass-seed injury, you need to take him to the vet to safely remove the embedded awn. However, there are some things you can do at home to soothe foot pain and encourage healing after the doctor removes the seed.
- Limit activity with cage rest
- Keep the hair between your dog’s toes trimmed short
- Bandage your dog’s paw
- Use an E-collar
- Soak your dog’s foot in Epsom salts, an oatmeal bath, or a green tea bath
- Rub a little coconut oil or MCT oil on the wound