What is Spear Grass?
Spear Grass is a type of wild grass that has a sharp point with fine, hair-like stems that spread back from the point, similar to that of an arrowhead. During the summer months the grass becomes very dry and sharp, thus posing a great risk to dogs. Spear grass is very common in the Okanagan Valley.
Dogs are most commonly affected by spear grass when they come in direct contact with the grass. This often occurs while hiking with your dog.
What are the Symptoms?
Spear Grass can become embedded between the toes of dogs, especially those with a long-haired coat. The spear grass can then migrate through the tissues of the paw/leg. In addition to becoming embedded in the paw, spear grass is also commonly found in a dog’s ear(s). When Spear Grass enters the ear canal it can cause severe discomfort/infection and even rupture the eardrum. The unique, barbed shape of the Spear Grass prevents it from being able to back out, it can only move forward deeper into the paw/ear canal. The paw and the ear are the two most common places spear grass becomes embedded; however it can penetrate any area of the dog’s body that comes into contact with the Spear Grass. We have removed Spear Grass from ears, paws, eyes, and noses to name a few.
Initial symptoms often involve licking and chewing at the site where the spear grass has embedded. Sudden onset of head shaking, head tilting and crying when the ear is scratched, can be a sign your dog has spear grass in it’s ear canal. Signs of inflammation and infection include: pain, swelling, redness and discharge.
How do you treat Spear Grass?
Treatment involves removal of the Spear Grass. If the Spear Grass has entered the paw, sedation is required to allow surgical exploration of the affected area, with hopes of finding and removing the Spear Grass. If the Spear Grass has entered the ear or eye, sedation is required so that we can tactfully remove the Spear Grass without causing further damage to vital body parts. Pain medication is often prescribed to ensure your pet’s comfort. Antibiotics are sometimes required if an infection is present.
How can I keep my dog safe from Spear Grass?
It is very difficult to avoid Spear Grass because it is so prevalent in the Okanagan Valley. Some tips to help keep your canine companion safe include:
- Shaving the feet (especially if they have long hair). This makes the Spear Grass more visible and facilitates removal prior to the Spear Grass becoming embedded into the tissues.
- Thoroughly inspect your dog’s feet/ears/eyes after a walk for evidence of spear grass and remove it before it becomes a problem!
- Avoid walking your dog in areas where Spear Grass is rampant!
- If you notice your pet licking/chewing at his/her paws or scratching at his/her ears then they may be affected by Spear Grass. Call us!
If you have any further questions, please call. We are here to help your canine companion live a long, healthy and happy life!