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Barley Grass
Mill Road Vet Hospital / Tuesday, 03 March 2020

Barley Grass

A pain in the …… Armpits?? written by Dr. Michelle Eyre

Meet Bentley!  He is a beautiful, and luckily very laidback little Shih Tzu Cross.  I first met him when he came in with long fur and multiple abscesses in both of his armpits, between his toes, and underneath his bottom.  His owner had already identified the problem, Bentley had barley grass seeds burrowing under his skin.

At this time of the year, barley grass is common, and we often see the effects of the seeds at the clinic.  The seeds cling to the fur of dogs and other animals, and due to the sharp point at one end of the seed, it can start to burrow under the skin.  If they are not located quickly enough, they can bury themselves right inside the animal and form painful abscesses.

During my first consult with Bentley, I pulled four barley grass seeds from under his skin, and his owner had already managed to remove several prior to coming in.  We made a plan to shave him nice and short all over, so any future barley grass seeds had nothing to cling to, and started him on antibiotics.  Bentley was to be scheduled for exploratory surgery if the abscesses did not heal in the next few days.  Bentley’s owner pulled several more out of his armpits over the following few days, as they worked their way to the surface, but he is now well and truly mended, and free of barley grass seeds!  Bentley was lucky, as many of these cases end up requiring surgical intervention to explore the abscesses and remove the offending objects!

And it’s not just dogs that can have trouble with barley grass seeds!  Later that week, I saw a cat with a barley grass seed lodged under his third eyelid, causing severe pain and inflammation.  They can also cause painful ulceration of the cornea due to the constant rubbing of the sharp seed on the surface of the eye.

You can protect your pets by:

  • Avoiding areas with tall, seeding grass
  • Clipping long-haired dogs, particularly between the toes and in the armpit/groin regions
  • Removing any seeds from their coat immediately – don’t forget to check around the eyes and ears, as well as the toes, armpits and groin

If you see any red, sore, abscessing areas (often they are licking them constantly), or your pet is suddenly squinting in one eye, or shaking their head, after being out in long grass, get them in to see us ASAP!

See below for more pictures and to see what Barley grass looks like!

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