Grass Awns

This week we saw Chewy, a gorgeous 4 month old golden retriever. He had a 'grass awn' removed by our vet Rufus, assisted by registered nurse Johnathan and student vet nurse Mia. We all fell in love with Chewy, so cute!

Why grass can be health risk?

When it comes to risks to the health of our dogs, the culprits are literally all around us. While a nice walk outside is quality time for both dog and owner, it too can be fraught with potential danger. One hazard you might not be aware of is the lowly grass awn....

What is a Grass Awn?

Whether you call them awns, mean seeds, timothy, foxtails, cheat grass, June grass, Downy Brome, or any other number of colloquial names, to dogs they generally mean one thing, and that’s trouble.

An awn is a hairy, or bristle-like, appendage growing from the ear or flower of barley, rye, and many types of widely growing grasses. The awn’s spikes and sharp edges serve a purpose—to stick and hold fast to surfaces so that they can spread their seeds to surrounding areas.

While part of the purpose of awns is to attach to passing animals and be distributed to other areas, this relationship is by no means symbiotic. Those sharp ends allow the awn to penetrate into and through the skin and tissues of a dog.

How Do Grass Awns Injure Dogs?

Pretty much any contact a dog has with grass awns is potentially hazardous. Grass awns can be inhaled, become lodged in the ears, swallowed, or even just imbedded in the coat or skin. It is when they are not quickly removed by the owner, or expelled by the animal, that they become problematic.

This risk also has quite a bit to do with where you live. A city dog is far less likely to come across awns, but even the most urban locales still have areas that are overgrown with all types of vegetation. So, a working dog used for tracking or hunting through the countryside might come across awns regularly, but an urban dog that spends a few moments exploring a neglected back alleyway can still be at risk.