Grass awns are seed pods that dry out and scatter in the summer. They are considered one of the most common summertime “emergencies”, as they get tangled in long, furry coats.
Dogs who tend to wander around tall grasses, can easily get awns attached to their body. Grass awns act as foreign bodies, can become lodged in your pet’s ear canal, nose, between toes, under the skin, inside the oral cavity and external genital organs. More importantly, they can migrate deeper through the respiratory and gastrointestinal tract through the nose and mouth respectively. Their shape prevents retrograde movement, making easy their migration deeper with normal body, respiratory or bowel movement.
Usually, awns become lodged into the skin and then migrate deeper, causing painful, inflamed, persistent draining tracts, especially between toes, that tend to recur despite antibiotic therapy. Awns lodged in the nasal cavity can cause paroxysmal sneezing with epistaxis and those in the ear canal, cause head shaking and otitis. On the other hand, If the grass awn passes through the chest or abdomen, clinical signs can be more serious, causing fever, loss of appetite, weight loss, exercise intolerance and various other symptoms depending on their location.
A thorough physical examination sometimes under sedation will help identify the awn, as lesions can become very painful. Imaging techniques such as ultrasonography, x-ray or MRI may also be required to locate awns that are lodged in deeper tissues or body cavities.
Removal of the foreign body often involves minor or even major surgical intervention. Antiobiotic therapy with anti-inflammatory and pain medications can also be prescribed.
In order for your dog to be safe, you should check their coat and paws after every walk. More importantly, they should be trimmed and groomed regularly, especially during spring and summer. On condition it is feasible, stay away from grassy parks or fields.