Tarahill Cairn Terriers &
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Spear Grass

Posted by karen on May 19, 2013 at 8:00 PM

Ahhh - at last.  We skipped through spring with our endless winter and summer is practically upon us.  What's not to love about a Saskatchewan summer?  Well, spear grass for one thing!  It may look lovely growing in the field but it can cause serious health problems for your dog (and big dollars for you if your dog needs veterinary care because of it).  Spear grass also goes by a variety of other names that reflect it's nasty reputation: foxtail grass, porcupine grass, needle grass etc. There are over 60 different species found around the world.

Spear grass is a common name for any type of wild grasses that has barbed seed heads.  The seed heads are carried on structures called awns.  The awns are very sharp and quickly and easily transfer to anything in their proximity.  Because of the structure of the barbs, the awns cannot back out if they become embedded in the dog's skin or mucosal surfaces (nose, mouth, genitals).  Movement causes the awns to penetrate more deeply and they can migrate into deep tissues causing pain, infection and tissue damage.  Seeds that become embedded in the ears, eyes, throat and nose are especially dangerous.  Seeds have been found in almost any body organ including the spinal cord and have been know to migrate all the way from a footpad to the lung.

Spear grass is at it's most dangerous when the seed stalks are dry and fall easily from the plant - from late spring to early fall....or most of our nice walking season.

Protect your pet from spear grass by learning what it looks like (google 'spear grass images' for photos; the Field guide URL below has drawings but the pictures are much more helpful) and avoiding risk areas.  If you notice spear grass in areas you have been walking with your dog, check for attached awns.  Especially check the ears and between the toes and pads of the feet as these are common sites where spear grass hides.

Some varieties of spear grass found in Saskatchewan include:

  • Awned wheatgrass
  • Green needlegrass
  • Richardson's needlegrass
  • Western porcupinegrass

For more information about spear grass....

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