Cheat grass is a plant that is native to Europe and Asia. While we have no idea how it found its way to North America, it is now a reality that pet-owners face in Central Oregon.
What is Cheat Grass
Cheat grass, also known as downy brome, bronco grass, June grass, foxtail and grass awn, is typically a problem later in the summer season. Once the plant dries out, and the barbed seed pods scatter, pets are susceptible to pick them up in paws, eyes, nostrils, or even in fur or skin.
Once dry, in later summer and early fall, the seed pods can be quite invasive. They contain one-way microscopic sized barbs, that enable the seed to work its way deep into skin and fur, even into mucus membranes. They work in a very similar way to porcupine quills, they’re easy to get in but near impossible to get out.
The best way to prevent cheat grass problems is to do daily checks on your pet after any outdoor playtime. Early removal can prevent more serious problems down the line.
Where to check
The most common place to find cheat grass on your pet is between their toes and in their ears. Pods can even be known to work their way into the skin through the lungs and abdomen, which can cause serious infections and problems. Both cats and dogs can be effected by cheat grass, but dogs are more susceptible as cats are better at grooming themselves.
It’s best to do daily toe and skin checks on your pets, if they’ve been outdoors. You can keep cheat grass away from your pets by keeping it out of your yard, their enclosure or any outdoor area you have control of. Fields with tall grass are typically full of cheat grass, and are better to avoid. Maintaining the hair between the toes of your pet reduces their chance of picking it up, and also makes daily checks easier.
Dogs with ears that stick up can be more prone to infection than those with floppy ears. Seeds can puncture a dog’s eardrum and cause an inner-ear infection.
How to know and when to see your Veterinarian
Animals that have been effected by cheat grass will typically show signs of an infection, like fatigue, a loss of appetite, potential swelling and more. If your pet is sneezing, shaking its head or scratching its ears a lot, the best course of action is to get your pet checked out at your veterinary clinic immediately.
A good indicator can be excessive licking, specifically on paws and in between toes. Look for any redness, swelling or drainage.
Blue Sky Veterinary Clinic is located in Bend, Oregon. They offer urgent care and emergency vet services throughout the day, when needed.