During late spring and summer, grass seeds and burrs are the bain of the dog owner’s life. Many dogs undergo operations to remove these damaging beasts which sometimes are not successful the first time round and so a possible second or even third operation is necessary to remove the damaging grass seed. This can lead to very expensive veterinary bills and several weeks of healing for the dog.
What are the Symptoms of a Grass Seed or Grass Burr in a Dog?
Symptoms that may cause you to consider a grass seed or grass burr lodgement in any part of your dog’s body can include (read further down for more detailed information):
- Excess scratching or shaking of the head;
- Constant licking;
- Redness and swelling or an abscess around the entry point (if it has lodged via the outer part of the body);
- A hole can sometimes be seen at the entry point;
- A grass seed entered in the nose can be indicated by excessive scratching, sneezing and mucous discharge;
- A grass seed entered in the ear can cause your dog to excessively scratch the ear, redness and swelling which eventually can develop into ear infection;
- If a grass seed has been swallowed then there may not be any immediate symptoms but could possibly be indicated by coughing, nausea, lethargy, loss of appetite, breathing difficulties.
What do Grass Seeds Look Like?
The worst offending grass seeds look like spiky arrows and are generally found on the long dry grasses. These have fibres which allow them to attach to various surfaces and by their very nature can get caught up in any type of dog coat, whether it be long or short. The photographs on this page are a few of the types of grass seeds to watch out for.
Other types of grasses have prickles or burrs and they don’t enter the dog’s body but they can get caught up in a long coated dog and result in the coat matting up. If not checked regularly they become a nuisance and may result in the coat needing to be clipped off.
Thorny type prickles can dig into the dog’s paw if he/she steps on them and can cause the dog pain. Generally these can be removed quite easily if they are large.
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When are Grass Seeds at their Worst?
Grass seeds and burrs are generally more prolific in the springtime although will be around well into the summer months. After the winter rains and the grasses have grown the seeds will also grow. As the summer approaches, the grasses dry out and so do the seeds and prickles and then they become brittle and break off. The time at which grass seeds become dry and loose is the time they are at their as far as your dog being vulnerable to them.
Keep your dog well brushed after a walk through long grasses and bush!
Grooming your dog with Furminator De-shedding Tools immmediately after walking in bush or long grasses will not only remove any loose hair but also will catch any grass seeds or debris caught in your dog’s coat.
Grass Seeds and Your Dog’s Body?
The arrow-like grass seeds can lodge virtually anywhere on your dog’s body. The easiest and most common place for your dog to pick up grass seeds is in the paws, particularly if your dog has a longer coat, however if your dog happens to roll on a patch of dead grass then the seeds can be picked up all over the body. It is for this reason it is important to check the dog all over every day during this time when they are at their worst. Not only can the grass seeds enter the dog’s paws but keep an eye out for the following signs:-
Paws – The most common way a dog can pick up grass seeds is through the paws whilst walking. Generally, they get caught between the pads through sticking to the fur and lodging next to the skin. If not checked regularly and removed, the sticky point of the seed will lodge its way into the dog’s skin, penetrating the skin as the dog runs and walks. Eventually the grass seed will force its way into the paw leaving a red swollen area and generally a visible hole.
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Ears – If you notice your dog shaking his head, scratching his ear or holding his head to one side and there is no sign of an real ear infection then a grass seed could be the cause. If a grass seed moves into the ear canal it can cause a range of problems if not treated early. See your veterinarian urgently.
Nose – Sneezing, a dog pawing at its nose and there is some nasal discharge then can be a sign of a grass seed caught up in the nasal passage.
Eyes – If your dog shows redness and inflammation in the eye area and a discharge appears then get your vet to check whether a grass seed is lodged in that area. If left untreated this can cause blindness in the dog.
Mouth – If the dog inhales a grass seed it can then travel into the throat and internally further into the stomach area. Sometimes it may lodge on the way down causing abscesses or damage to the internal organs or even the spinal area. Your dog could show symptoms of illness and attempting to vomit, refusal to eat, coughing, fever or breathing difficulties. If you suspect your dog has ingested a grass seed, seek immediate veterinary attention.
Skin – Grass seeds will first lodge in the dog’s coat. If these are not located and removed early on they will start to enter the skin with their spiky fibres. The dog will start to scratch and bite in the area affected. The grass seed will keep penetrating and eventually work its way right inside into the body. Once inside the body the seed then gradually travels along causing swelling and infection or abscesses along the way. If the seed enters via the paw then it will start to travel up the leg. If it enters via the chest then the lungs and breathing could be affected.
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How to Remove a Grass Seed from Your Dog?
Removing a grass seed would only be attempted if you can still see it protruding from the entry point. If it is not too deeply entered it is possible to pull it out with your fingers or tweezers. Pull the grass seed out carefully taking care not to leave any remnants inside. If you do manage to pull one out before it has gone too far in, the wound should heal fairly quickly. If you have pulled the seed out but it is not healing then there may be some remnant still left in there. You would need to take the dog to the vet for this.
A grass seed that lodges in any other part of the dog’s body, whether it be the face, neck, throat, ears, tail or body, will show the same symptoms. There will be redness and swelling and a hole which will look infected. If it lodges into these other parts you may not see any other evidence and it is urgent that you get your dog to the vet immediately. This is because you won’t know how far along it has progressed and it will keep travelling, causing infection along the way.
Unless you can clearly see the grass seed, then it is advisable to take your dog to the vet for removal. Sometimes they can operate and not actually find the seed first time round. If this is the case, and the swollen area has not gone down to normal size, then it is likely it will be necessary for the dog to have a second operation. Vets cannot guarantee that they will be able to find and remove the seed the first time round, particularly if it is located in the dog’s paw.
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How to Protect a Dog from Getting Grass Seeds?
There are several ways you can protect your dog from getting grass seeds:
What Causes Dog Diarrhea and How to Treat It
There are few things that will bring an animal into the vet quite as quickly as a bout of diarrhea. For most small animal veterinarians, it is something we see on a daily basis. Sometimes, dog diarrhea cases are easy with quick fixes. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Chronic or extensive dog diarrhea cases can be frustrating for both the pet parent and the doctor because they are expensive and difficult to understand.
This article will break down the causes, diagnostics, and treatments for dog diarrhea into simpler terms.
Jump to a section here:
What Causes Dog Diarrhea?
In a very broad definition, diarrhea is caused by the malfunction of the gastrointestinal tract. The list of all the causes of diarrhea is extensive. Here are just a few examples:
- Vascular: Infarction (a clot blocking blood flow to a section of the intestine), shock such as from heatstroke, or an allergic reaction can cause lack of blood flow to the GI tract
- Infectious: Viral (Parvo, distemper, coronavirus (NOT COVID-19)), anthelmintic parasites (roundworm, hookworm, whipworm), protozoal parasites (giardia, coccidia), bacterial (clostridium, leptospirosis, salmonella, E.coli, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO))
- Trauma: Torsion or twisting of the GI tract, a penetrating wound, being hit by a car, a foreign body, caustic toxin exposure (bleach, etc.), NSAID toxicity, and ulceration
- Autoimmune: Inflammatory bowel disease (there are many more specific diagnoses under this broad category), lymphangiectasia
- Metabolic: Renal (kidney) disease, hyperthyroidism, hypoadrenocorticism or Addison’s disease, hepatitis/hepatopathy, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI)
- Iatrogenic (doctor speak for you did it yourself): Dietary indiscretion, stress induced, chocolate toxicity, overfeeding—especially in puppies
- Inflammatory: Pancreatitis, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis
- Neoplasia: lymphosarcoma, focal neoplasia (primary vs. metastatic)
What Kind of Human Foods Can Cause Diarrhea?
We’ve all done it—fed our dogs a little bit off our plate or topped the bowl of kibble with a little something yummy. I know the temptation is real, and that sweet face asking for more is tempting, but just say no!
Our pets’ digestive systems are very different from our own. In general, dogs and cats are not well equipped to digest large volumes of fat, or even any amounts that are in excess of whatever their normal is.
Treats that are high in salt and sugar can lead to diarrhea by simple osmosis—pulling water into the gastrointestinal tract as it is digested. If you are going to feed your pet “human food,” stick with safe fruits and vegetables such as carrots, green beans, or apples (without seeds).
Types of Dog Diarrhea
When attempting to narrow down our list of causes, we break dog diarrhea down into two major categories: large-bowel and small-bowel diarrhea.
Large-bowel diarrhea, or diarrhea arising from the large intestine or colon, is characterized by:
Small volumes of stool
Straining to defecate
Red blood in the stool as well as mucous
Pet parents are often very concerned when they see blood in their dog’s stool. While this is certainly a sign of inflammation and a good time to come to the vet, a small amount of blood is often par for the course when dealing with a large-bowel diarrhea.
Here’s why. The job of the colon is two-fold:
Storage of stool until it’s ready to exit
Resorption of water to prevent dehydration
Since the colon needs to pull water out of the poop, blood vessels are very close to the surface and easily break with straining and inflammation. Likewise, there are mucous glands in the colon to help lubricate stools for easy passage.
When there is inflammation, they will overproduce their mucous coating. When the colon isn’t working right, stools can also be very watery.
If there is a large volume of blood noted in the stools (the stool is all blood or looks like raspberry jam), this is more concerning and should be addressed with more urgency.
Small-bowel diarrhea or diarrhea arising from the small intestine is characterized by:
Large, goopy poops produced at normal frequency
Stool is often fatty and frothy
Stool rarely has red blood or mucous
There is typically no straining involved
The job of the small intestine is absorption of nutrients. When there is inflammation or dysfunction, there can be a lack of absorption, resulting in fatty stools.
We can also see signs of malnutrition in dogs with small-bowel diarrhea:
Acute Diarrhea in Dogs
Some episodes of dog diarrhea can be easily cleared up. An acute onset of diarrhea can often resolve on its own with minimal intervention from you.
When your dog’s diarrhea has lasted for 48 hours or more, or you see blood in the stool, or your pet has additional symptoms (vomiting or inappetence), it is time to visit the vet.
Chronic Diarrhea in Dogs
Chronic diarrhea is persistent despite initial treatment or is recurrent in nature.
Causes include (but are not limited to):
Parasites such as whipworms
Inflammatory bowel disease
Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency
Hyperthyroidism or other metabolic condition
Chronic diarrhea in dogs can sometimes lead to weight loss, a dry and unthrifty hair coat, and lethargy.
If your pet is continuously exposed to a diet that they are sensitive to, this can also cause chronic intermittent diarrhea.
Some dog and cat foods that are marketed as healthier for your pet can also be high in fat and protein. Grain-free diets remove healthy fiber content from the dog food, which can be very rough on a sensitive system.
It is important to look for balance in a diet and that it comes from a reputable company that is doing their homework when it comes to their formulations.
Diarrhea With Vomiting in Dogs
When dog diarrhea occurs with vomiting, a new section of the gastrointestinal tract has entered the picture. Gastroenteritis is the group term for inflammation of both the stomach and the upper GI tract.
Sometimes a high-fat treat, even a small one, can trigger pancreatitis—a condition wherein the pancreas, which produces digestive enzymes, among other things, becomes inflamed. This condition can cause acute vomiting and diarrhea as well as abdominal pain. In very severe cases, pancreatitis can even be fatal.
Vomit that contains blood can look red, brown, or black. Unlike a small amount of blood in the stool, any amount of blood in vomit is concerning and should result in a trip to the vet right away.
What Does the Color of Your Dog’s Diarrhea Mean?
The color of your pet’s bowel movement is most often impacted by what they are eating. Simply put, lighter colored foods will result in a lighter colored poop. There are a few color indicators that are important to note when talking to your vet.
Yellow diarrhea is most typically caused when a pet parent has started feeding a bland diet, such as chicken and rice.
The chicken and rice are white, and when they mix with yellow bile in the gastrointestinal tract, it comes out as yellow stools.
Bloody diarrhea or hematochezia is caused when there is large bowel diarrhea or colitis. This occurs when small blood vessels in the lower part of the GI tract break open and bleed a bit into the stool.
A small amount of blood is not overly concerning, but if the stool is primarily blood, your pet should be taken to the vet right away.
Black diarrhea or melena is caused when blood is being digested before it is passed. This stool looks like newborn baby poop and can have a black or greenish color.
Melena can be seen with conditions such as bleeding ulcers or foreign bodies.
What to Give Dogs for Diarrhea at Home
You should never use your own human medications on your pets. Only administer medications as prescribed by your veterinarian.
Antibiotics can make diarrhea worse
In my experience, Pepto Bismol just results in pink vomit
Imodium works by paralyzing the gastrointestinal tract. This can be a problem for pets that eat things they aren’t supposed to (such as toxins or foreign objects) or have parasites that need to be moved through.
The best thing you can do for your dog at home when diarrhea hits is to feed them a bland diet.
Think simple protein (lean chicken, beef, ground chuck, white fish, or cooked eggs) and simple carbohydrates (white or brown rice, white or sweet potatoes) combined.
Feed small, frequent meals that help heal the GI tract but do not overwhelm it.
In the case of stress-induced diarrhea, starting a fiber supplement a few days prior to the stressful event can help prevent the diarrhea from starting. Psyllium fiber can be purchased over the counter in products like Metamucil.
You can also opt for canned pumpkin as a source of fiber that you can add to your dog’s food.
When Should You Call the Vet About Dog Diarrhea?
If you have tried giving a bland diet for 48 hours and the diarrhea is persistent, it’s time to go to the vet.
Other signs that would warrant a prompt appointment would be:
Vomiting (especially if there is blood present)
Severe diarrhea with large amounts of blood
Diarrhea after administering vaccines or medication
If you are ever unsure, it is best to err on the side of caution and call your vet’s office.
Dog Diarrhea Testing and Treatment
When you go to the vet, they may recommend one or a few tests to help them weed through the extensive list of possible diagnoses:
Fecal flotation looks for the presence of intestinal parasites.
Giardia tests look for the presence of the Giardia parasite.
Gram stains look for certain types of bacteria and/or an overgrowth of bacteria.
Parvo testing screens for parvovirus.
Chemistry and CBC bloodwork look for signs of protein loss, metabolic disease, inflammation, anemia, and much more.
CPL tests look for the presence of pancreatic lipase, which can be elevated in pets with pancreatitis.
Imaging (radiographs or ultrasound) looks for evidence of obstruction, cancer, gall bladder disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and much more.
It is important to bring the following information with you to your veterinary appointment:
Thorough history of the illness, including when it started
Symptoms you have noticed
Colors of stools
Whether or not there is anything you can think of out of the ordinary that may have brought the diarrhea on
When an owner can provide a thorough history, it sometimes means a doctor can narrow down the list of tests they want to run—which can help save time and money when coming to a diagnosis.
What Treatments Will the Vet Prescribe for Dog Diarrhea?
The treatment that your vet prescribes will depend on their diagnosis or suspected diagnosis.
Medications Used for Dog Diarrhea
Metronidazole and Tylosin are two antibiotics that have known anti-inflammatory properties in the gastrointestinal tract. When a bacterial overgrowth is suspected, additional antibiotics may be added, such as amoxicillin.
Probiotics and fiber can be an important part of resolving diarrhea. The good bacteria in the GI consume fiber and produce short-chain fatty acids that help heal the intestine.
In the case of diarrhea caused by cancer, a chemotherapeutic drug may be prescribed.
Antacids and stomach protectants can help to resolve stomach and upper GI irritation, and anti-nausea drugs are often added when vomiting or inappetence is an issue.
Other options include deworming and/or anti-inflammatories such as prednisone.
Change of Diet for Diarrhea in Dogs
Other components of treatment may include a bland prescription diet, a high-calorie diet, or a hypoallergenic diet.
When dealing with diarrhea, the answers can be easy all the way up until they aren’t!
Ultimately, it’s important to always loop in your veterinarian when you are concerned about your pet’s illness. Remember that our pets can’t talk to us to tell us how bad they feel. When in doubt, always consult your veterinarian.