How a simple walk in the park could be fatal for man’s best friend

grass seeds in dogs
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Charles Sturt University academics are leading the country in research that could provide widespread benefits for dog owners and veterinarians across the globe.

Senior lecturer in Small Animal Medicine and head of the Small Animal Referral in Wagga Hospital in Wagga Wagga, Dr Martin Combs, is leading a team of Charles Sturt researchers investigating techniques to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of grass seed foreign bodies in dogs.

While the research primarily looks at working dogs, it has a lot of relevance to domestic or pet dogs too.

The research focuses on three main areas:

  • Looking at incidence, geographical distribution of and risk factors/protective factors for grass seed foreign bodies
  • Improving identification techniques and retrieval methods for grass seed foreign bodies
  • Developing training to help veterinarians and students use technologies and surgical techniques to identify and remove grass seeds from dogs

“We are still in the early stages, but the aim is to reduce disease incidence and severity in dogs,” Dr Combs said.

“Raising awareness is important as dog owners often don’t understand how severe this disease can be. This is a huge problem in regional Australia, many dogs suffer and die from grass seed foreign bodies, tens of thousands need treatment for it.

“Improving prevention and treatment strategies for this disease will benefit millions of dogs worldwide.”

Dr Combs said the presentation of grass seed foreign bodies in working dogs and domestic dogs differs in terms of where in the body the seeds lodge and the symptoms the dogs show to indicate there is a problem.

Working dogs are more likely to get grass seeds stuck in internal organs, after they have been inhaled while running, which can lead to abscesses in the back, abdomen, chest and heart. Domestic dogs are more likely to get grass seeds stuck externally in the ears, eyes, paws, mouth and nose from long grass in the backyard or walks in parks and around the neighbourhood.

“Working dogs often present with very severe disease … because they are exposed to grass seed in different ways,” Dr Combs said.

“We have seen farm dogs with thousands of seeds in their coat and I have seen dogs where those seeds have worked their way directly through the body wall into body cavities.

“The injuries they sustain can prevent them from continuing work.”

Sourced from CSU News on the Charles Sturt University website.

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