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Summer Awns Issues

I find myself in a dilemma.

I am a huge fan of all things that support our natural environment, especially pollinators. It seems terribly important that we provide nectar, the food for insects that we need to grow our food, in a natural way.

So not mowing our lawns and verges in early summer is a good thing. But, it is not a good thing when it leads to so many of my doggy patients getting injuries from grass awns. This happens when grass is not mown, and dogs are exercised on meadows with lovely long grass which flowers and then produces its seeds, helping the natural world. But some of those grass seeds, also known as awns, have feathery hairs with sharp points, and are barbed to stick to animal fur.

This is the grass’ natural way to spread its seed to new areas for it to colonise. But for many dogs, it is a recipe for an incredibly painful foreign body in the ear canal which can lead to a burst ear drum. Cocker spaniels seem particularly prone to this problem. The awns can also catch between the toes of dogs, particularly those with curly fur and some poodle in their genes. The awns can then work their way into the skin causing painful abscessation. In both ears or paws, this often requires general anaesthesia to remove the offending awn.

So, whilst I am supporting No Mow May in principle, in practice I would strongly advise all my dog walking clients to avoid areas that are unmown, where the grass has been allowed to reach knee height and flower. Or, if you cannot find anywhere safe, check your little one’s fur carefully after every walk, picking out any vegetation they have caught, especially if they have curly coats. You might also consider a snood for them to wear to protect their ear canals.

And if you have a rabbit, this is the time of year to be extra vigilant about flies laying eggs. Check your rabbits’ tails twice a day for maggots, and use a good quality fly repellent.

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