Vet Services Hawkes Bay Ltd

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Barley Grass Season

By Helen Crawford - BVSc

Barley Grass season is on its way and this pesky seed is a common problem for many dogs. Barley Grass seeds have a sharp barb at one end and are perfectly formed to penetrate skin and travel around the body. Spaniels and Beardies are at particular risk due to their hairy feet, but any dog can be affected. Commonly the seeds get in between the toes causing a small painful abscess and if left untreated, can move under the skin up the leg, causing a problem elsewhere at a later date. The seeds can also get trapped in the ear canal causing irritation and potentially rupture the ear drum. Occasionally they can get caught underneath the third eyelid and cause significant damage to the cornea of the eye.

In dogs that are high risk, it is recommended to have a “Barley Grass Clip” before the summer. This involves our nurses clipping the hair short on all four feet to reduce the number of seeds that can get trapped in the fur and eventually penetrate the skin. This is often done under sedation.

  • Signs to look for include-
  • Lameness or licking excessively at one or more feet.
  • Small red swelling in between toes. This may also have a small hole that some pus can be expressed from.
  • Sudden shaking of the head and sensitive around one ear.
  • Abscess anywhere on the body.
  • Sudden onset squinting and eye discharge.

Treatment often requires sedation to explore the affected area in search for a barley grass. Prompt treatment is essential to prevent the seeds from moving around the body and causing potentially significant harm.

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