As the summer months unfold, however, there are some hidden hazards to be aware of while adventuring outside. Grass awns and foxtails appear harmless, and pretty in nature, but for dogs and outdoor cats they can pose a summertime threat. They can be found in a wide range of outdoor environments, from expansive fields and well-kept home gardens to hiking trails. These bristle-like spikey grassy weed plants can become lodged in a pet’s ears, between toes, and under the skin.

Grass awn removal surgery is one of the most common minor emergency procedures we see during the summer. With backward-pointing barbs that prevent retrograde movement, they make removal difficult and painful. Since grass awns migrate deep into the skin with just your pet’s normal motion activities, it is important to have them removed as soon as possible.
If left untreated, grass awns can lead to infections, abscesses, and even more severe health issues. Once a grass awn has entered the pet’s body, it can cause damage to internal organs and disrupt normal body functions.
*Symptoms that might indicate a grass awn foreign body:

  • Persistent licking at an area of the body, especially if there is a visible lesion
  • Limping or painful paws
  • Evidence of swelling or a draining wound
  • Violent sneezing
  • Shaking the head, rubbing the ears persistently
  • Rubbing the eyes, squinting the lids closed, increased discharge or redness

When is it safe to remove a grass awn from my pet?

If you notice grass awns on your pet’s fur, you can remove them by hand or by brushing them out as soon as possible. If the grass awns have not penetrated your pet’s skin and entered the body, it is generally safe to remove them yourself. If that is NOT the case, it is best to reach out to a veterinarian right away.

Prevention is key! Here are some helpful tips to keep your pet safe throughout the summer:

  • Remove weeds from your pet’s yard and enclosure.
  • Keep pets out of dry, grassy fields and roadsides.
  • Keep your pet’s coat clean and well-groomed.
  • This may mean clipping fur short to help reduce grass seed accumulation and facilitate daily inspections.
  • Inspect your pet daily for hair mats (where grass awns like to hide) and examine the area between their toes.
  • Clip the hair between paw pads in dogs to reduce the potential for picking up grass awns.
  • Consider having your dog wear protective gear such as booties, vests, or headwear during walks in high-risk areas.

If your dog or cat has been diagnosed with a grass awn/foxtail foreign body, give us a call today!

Animal Works Veterinary Surgery

Fort Collins, CO 


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