'Tis the season to be cautious! That nasty little weed seed called "cheat grass" is lurking in the roadsides and empty lots, waiting to penetrate your dog's feet and face.
Up until now, the cheat grass has looked benign, green and soft. But now, in July's heat, the head on this tall grass is drying out. As you walk through the fields and orchards, you may pick up some cheat grass heads in your socks. Your dog picks them up too. The heads get lodged between your dog's toes, in his ears, in his cheeks, eyes, and in the ruff of his neck, especially if he's hairy. The ends of these heads are so needle-sharp that they'll penetrate the skin, causing serious and painful abscesses. A piece of cheat can even migrate, once it's under the skin, to other locations in the body where it can cause horrific damage.
Cheat grass abscesses are one of the most common reasons people visit veterinarians in the summer and fall.
The best treatment for cheat is prevention. Keep your dog out of cheat-grass areas. If you have cheat-grass on your property, keep it mowed and/or plant another variety of grass in that area.
Following a walk in cheaty areas, comb your fingers carefully through your dog's neck hair, examine ears and look between toes. Pull out and discard any of the seeds.
If your dog develops abscesses, or if he's pawing at his ears after being in cheat grass, schedule a visit to the vet as soon as possible. You may be able to "float" a piece of cheat out of his ears with mineral oil, but it's better to see the vet just in case there's more in the ear canal that you can't spot.