Spring has definitely arrived with dryer weather and longer days just around the corner. It is interesting how the changes in the season bring about changes in our lives – we are outside later in the day and come into contact with nature more often. And the same applies to our FURmily. Grass seeds are the bane of hairy dogs and their owners at this time of year. If your dog has access to any long grass you have to be particularly careful now as the grass seeds sneak into every nook and cranny with no trouble at all. In between toes is a favourite and this leads to a very painful, red swelling often with a little hole from which fluid will drain. The body is trying its best to get rid of it but the grass seed is very hard to dislodge. Another common entry point for grass seeds is the ears – this is extremely painful as the seed goes straight to the ear drum and causes constant head shaking, holding the head to one side and a very unhappy pet. These are often emergencies as neither pet nor owner can put up with the pain. Deep sedation or anaesthesia is required to carefully examine the ear and remove the offending seed to give instant relief. Constant sneezing is a sign of one up the nose and it is highly unlikely to be blown out as the awns have sharp barbs that catch the mucosa and need a sharp pull with forceps to extract. They can get in around the private parts too and cause severe discomfort or discharge. I have found grass seeds in eyes and chests and abdomens where they have migrated through tissue and cause terrible harm. The easy solution is avoidance – stay out of long grass. Clip your pets – especially their feet and armpits. Cats get the problem infrequently as they are such good self-groomers.

Snakes like the warm weather too so be wary. Common signs are usually seen soon after being bitten but there are reports of taking up to 24 hours before signs are seen. Cats are floppy and won’t move – you find them in the same spot several hours after first seeing them there. Dogs often collapse and vomit but can seem to recover. Do not take a watch-and-see with these as this is a case of serious envenomation and is often fatal if the dog does not receive anti-venom promptly. Milder cases shiver and shake, have dilated pupils and seem weak. Dogs will always progress but some cats may not and seem slightly more resistant. We don’t know how much venom has been injected so it always pays to give the anti-venom in all suspect cases. There are a number of old wives tales concerning alternative treatments for snake bites such as Vitamin C or putting the dog in water, all of which have no effect.   Pet insurance can be purchased that will help cover the costs of treatment if you have a known hunter and live in a high risk area.   When walking in the bush around Shepparton from now on keep your pet on a lead and look where you step! Keep cats indoors – it’s safest.

– Fiona Cameron,
Shepp Vets