How to protect your dog from grass seeds

25 May 2022 - 8 min read

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Dog in a wheat field

Grass seeds might be small, but they can threaten our pet's health, especially during late spring and summertime. They’re attached to the tops of the stems on certain varieties of long grass and can easily be brushed off onto your dog.

It's a common problem, particularly for young adult dogs - we had 1,369 pet insurance claims for grass seeds in 2021 alone. The average payout for grass seed claims was £398.24. They can need quite a lot of investigation and maybe even surgery to remove and treat.

Veterinary surgeon Sophie Bell’s dog horrifyingly lost an eye after getting a grass seed lodged in it, although she says this isn’t one of the usual places pups get them stuck.

“The main areas include in between the toes, inside the ears and under the armpits,” says Sophie, and the damage they can do is significant.

“They are barbed so can penetrate any part of the skin and either push themselves deeper into tissues and end up in places like the lungs or migrate under the skin and pop up in another area, usually forming an abscess.”

So, although it might sound minor on the surface, it's essential to see a vet if you think your dog has a grass seed stuck in their skin, nose, ears or elsewhere.

We're here to help get you prepared. Below, we discuss what grass seeds look like, what to do if your dog gets one stuck and the treatment options. 


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What do grass seeds look like?

Grass seeds are small and usually a greenish-light brown colour. Most of the ones that vets remove are around a centimetre or less in size (though they may occasionally be bigger if they have long barbs on them).

Shapes can vary, but they’re always quite sharp and pointy, which is why dogs can get them stuck in their fur and skin. 

Can dogs eat grass seed?

No, we wouldn’t recommend that dogs eat grass seeds. They can get stuck in their throat or accidentally inhaled into the lungs.

Even if they swallow them safely, grass seeds can cause digestive problems if eaten in large volumes, leading to tummy upsets, abdominal pain and a loss of appetite. 

Unfortunately, dogs love to eat grass, but eating seeds is a little risky. 

dog carrying a stethoscope in its mouth

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How can I tell if my dog has been affected by grass seeds?

Grass seeds embedded in your dog can be hard to spot.

“The signs are constantly licking the area of penetration or shaking the head if inside the ear. A visible hole where the seed has entered, swelling and sometimes pus from the affected area“ says Sophie. 

“Once inside they can migrate rapidly to other areas. It can affect the whole body with systemic signs such as fever, and general malaise."

Symptoms include:

● Excessive licking and worrying of the area

● Head shaking if the seed is in the ear

● Swelling and pain at the site

● Limping if the seed is causing a problem in a paw

● Discharge, sometimes pus

● A small visible hole where penetration occurred

● Fever, lethargy and loss of appetite

Problems caused by grass seeds can sometimes be difficult to diagnose.

“I remember seeing a two-year-old Spaniel who had spent 18 months of his life with on and off illness, which improved with Metacam and antibiotics," says Sophie. 

"Eventually he went for a CT scan, and a seed was found within his lung as an abscess. Once removed, he returned to full health.”

Are grass seeds dangerous for dogs?

Vet looking into a brown Chow Chow's ear

Grass seeds can be dangerous.

As mentioned, the ends of grass seeds are sharp, and they can get trapped on your dog’s skin and fur. Once trapped, they can pierce the skin and get stuck in their eyes, ears, paws or nose. The barbs present on many grass seeds stop them from being able to reverse back out, so they continue migrating forward, burying deeper into your pet.

It’s painful for dogs, and they can become a big problem if they penetrate the skin and enter their body, due to their ability to work their way through your pet’s soft tissues. 

They can be found in areas of long grass, fields and woodland - places where dogs love to explore. 

You don’t need to worry every time your dog goes out, but stay vigilant and, in particular, check the skin and fur between their toes regularly. If your pet shows signs of pain or irritation, you need to take them to a vet for treatment. 

Always consult a vet if you’re unsure, especially if you suspect grass seeds have penetrated the skin and have entered your dog’s body. 

Where grass seeds commonly affect dogs


The seeds can get into your dog’s ear canals and cause extreme irritation. Your dog will often show marked head shaking, pawing at the ear and their face.    

They may even create hotspots from scratching and rubbing, which are areas of sore skin on the side of their face. They may go off food, feel lethargic and hold their head to one side. 

Any dog that is showing the symptoms described above needs a vet appointment. 


Grass seeds can get into your pet’s eye, although it's rare. You may not be aware of this unless your dog shows signs, such as marked irritation, redness and pawing at their face. They can rapidly cause problems, potentially leading to eye loss.

But Sophie had personal experience of this. 

"As a veterinary surgeon, I faced this exact problem with my dog Chops. At bedtime, all appeared to be fine. There was no evidence of any issue with his left eye. By the morning, he was in severe pain, had gone blind and needed an urgent operation to remove his eye.

"We had no clue what the cause was at this stage as there were several diagnoses on the list. His eye was sent to the lab technician, who later confirmed it was a foreign body that had caused the problem; very likely a grass seed. But as they can be so very small, we may never have seen it when the surgical site was flushed out. Thankfully, he made a full recovery and is managing just fine.”


A sign that your dog has grass seeds stuck in their paws is excessively licking or biting their paw. Their paw may appear wet or stained from saliva. There may be a swelling present and perhaps some pus too. Some dogs can have a limp and may not want you to touch their foot, indicating pain.

As with other areas, you must see a vet to remove grass seeds from their paws. They usually need to make a small incision (cut) in the affected area and use a pair of tweezers or forceps to remove the seeds. This is a painful process, so your dog will need sedation.

Following this your dog may require a bandage on their paw to keep the foot protected while it heals. They may also be sent home with medication to help with their recovery.

Internal organs

Grass seeds left in situ can cause real problems, which is why prompt removal is so important.

"I have witnessed seeds migrate to the lungs of dogs causing abscesses. These dogs have presented with long-term waxing and waning illness, which has improved with medication and then slowly deteriorated. After further investigation, usually a CT scan, the seed has been found" says Sophie.

"It’s important to know that grass seeds will not show up on a normal x-ray. Sometimes, for grass seeds that are in superficial skin areas, a dye can be used alongside normal x-rays to locate them."

How to prevent grass seeds in dogs

There are a few things you can do.

Grass seeds will find it easier to get into your dog’s coat if it's thick, especially if it's matted. Regular brushing and maintenance are important, including their feet.

"You should introduce a brush from a young age and use it after your walks to check for seeds. Where appropriate, it may be better to keep the coat shorter in those breeds who appear more prone to picking up grass seeds, such as Spaniels," says Sophie.

As with most accidents, prevention is better than cure. 

"For all breeds, it's important to check the feet regularly. Feel in-between the toes and closely inspect around and in-between the pads. It’s a good idea to have the hair between and around your dog's paws trimmed and to clip away the hair from in between the pads. I’d advise taking your dog to a groomer to have this done. Also, you should feel under the armpits, you could consider having this area clipped short, too.

“Using a harness with a chest plate may provide extra protection for the busy dogs who are racing through the undergrowth, and you could even consider boots for repeat offenders.”

You can also make sure your garden is well-maintained. Dogs like to spend a lot of time chilling and playing outside, so having a pet-friendly outdoor space will minimise risk.

First aid tips

“Owners cannot treat it themselves,” Sophie warns, although she has some tips for immediate first aid. “You can attempt to help it work its way out by using an overnight poultice, but the sooner you see a vet, usually the fewer complications and less expense.”

“Place a poultice on the affected area. This is only possible when dealing with seeds on the paws. The process involves mixing milk and bread to make a thick paste. Warming it for a few seconds can usually help make a better consistency. Once the paste has cooled, it can be applied to the affected area on a piece of cotton wool or gauze swab. A bandage can then be applied over the top to hold it in place.”

"This is not a replacement for your vet, this is to help draw the seed out while you wait for the appointment to see the vet" says Sophie.

Remember: grass seeds can migrate around the body and end up in worrying places like the lungs. Therefore, you do not want to use a poultice any longer than overnight to see if it can draw the seed out.

Frustratingly, the seeds are often barbed, so sometimes your vet needs to make a small incision under sedation to remove it.

Staying vigilant

Check your dog’s coat regularly and pay special attention to the problem areas, like between the toes. Keep on top of grooming and maintain good ear health.

A poultice may help in some cases, but it is only to be used whilst waiting to see your vet

Grass seeds may be small, but they can cause big problems if they aren't removed quickly.

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Irina Wells
Content Marketing Executive

Irina is a former content marketing executive for ManyPets. She has contributed to a number of personal finance sites, including Loot Financial Services and Claro Money.