Who has a pet that loves nothing more than playing out in fields of long grass?
Fields and long grass make a fun play area for dogs on walks and cats who wander. Vets tend to see an increased number of foreign body cases when animals are spending more time outdoors. We’ve seen quite a few at Wicstun recently – from ears, to eyes, to noses! Read on to help spot the signs and protect your pet.
What is a foreign body?
A foreign body is a type of matter that doesn’t occur naturally within a body, that has somehow found its way in. It is something that shouldn’t be there and hasn’t been produced by the body itself. It’s likely to cause pain from the onset and if left untreated will likely cause infection and tissue damage. In some instances, such as a foreign body in the lungs, the damage can be significant and even catastrophic for the animal.
Here’s a bit of a heads up from us to you regarding the symptoms of common foreign bodies;
- Aural foreign bodies (in an ear canal)
Possible signs and symptoms: Scratching, head rubbing, head shy, withdrawn behaviour. There may be no sign of irritation around the external part of the ear – the problem is hidden in the canal. Dogs with long ears are at risk!
Common culprits: grass seeds, grass awns, twigs, grass blades
- Ocular foreign bodies (in or on the eye)
Possible signs and symptoms: Sudden onset of irritation, swelling, uncontrolled blinking, excessive tear production (watery eye), redness, pain. Requires immediate veterinary attention.
Common culprits: grass seeds, grass awns, grit, sand
- Interdigital foreign bodies (the skin in between the toes)
Possible signs and symptoms: Lameness, licking at foot, withdrawn behaviour. Sometimes you might see a small hole in the skin. If left, the small hole may close and an abscess may form.
Common culprits: grass awns, grass seeds, glass
- Oral foreign bodies (in the mouth – can be in the cavity or within the tissues)
Possible signs and symptoms: Hypersalivation (drooling), pawing at mouth, unable/ unwilling to eat, withdrawn behaviour, blood tinged saliva.
Common culprits: sticks, grass awns – cats often get grass blades stuck in the nasopharyngeal area (nose and throat)
- Oesophageal, Gastric and Intestinal foreign bodies (something is lodged within digestive tract)
Possible signs and symptoms: Retching, clear discomfort, withdrawn behaviour, hypersalivation, increased breathing rate, vomiting, anorexia, lethargy. Immediate veterinary attention is required.
Common culprits: Stones, bones, toys – anything is a possibility.
Less common foreign bodies can affect the skin and the airways. In some cases they can even migrate over time into the abdominal or chest cavities where they cause problems.
What can you do to reduce the risk?
- Ensure that grass seeds are removed from your pet’s fur straight away, paying special attention to ears and paws
- Check paws and ears regularly – get to know what normal looks like so you’re more likely to spot any changes quickly
- Brush your pet’s coat regularly, especially long haired breeds
- Take large, durable toys out with you to encourage dogs to chase these instead of finding their own – avoid sticks to prevent injury
Don’t forget that parasites such as ticks and biting lice are lurking in long grass too – protect your pet with a veterinary standard product and check the base of your pet’s coat regularly. Check areas of lightly covered skin regularly for ticks such as, under arms and the underside abdomen.
If your pet starts to display strange or different behaviour, especially following a playing out session, then it’s always wise to seek advice from your vet.