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Why are spikelets dangerous for dogs? What precautions should be taken?

The spikelet is an inflorescence that can easily be seen in nature from spring to fall. A real threat to the health of dogs, it not only clings to their coat but penetrates the body through any natural orifice of the animals or through their epidermis and even their pads. The consequences can be extremely serious if left untreated. At the slightest doubt, it is therefore necessary to consult a veterinarian urgently. Let's discover the particularities of this wild oat, the symptoms it causes in dogs, the health risks and the precautions to take to protect your little friend.

What are spikelets?

A spikelet is a small spike with florets. It is the inflorescence of certain plants such as those belonging to the grass family (Poaceae).

When it reaches maturity, the spikelet dries and then detaches from its stem and clings to the clothes of walkers as well as to the fur of dogs, cats and other animals. Under its harmless appearance, the spikelet represents a real danger for the health of our small companions, and particularly our dogs.

Spikelets: travelling spikes

Once the spikelet or spigaou clings to the dog's paw pads or hair, it can inexorably penetrate deep into the epidermis and pierce it. It then continues its journey into the animal's organs or tissues. The tip of the spikelet being very sharp, the spike progresses very quickly, always in the same direction. This is why it is called the "traveler".

The spikelet can also enter the dog's body through the eyes and any orifice: the ear canal, nostrils, anus, genital tract, etc. It can then cause damage and the dog can die. In this case, it causes damage and the animal can suffer serious complications.

Spiracles in dogs: what are the health risks?

Depending on its location, and therefore the way it enters the body, the spikelet can cause, for example, in a dog or female dog

  • An abscess,
  • An ulceration,
  • An alteration of the cornea,
  • A respiratory problem,
  • A vaginitis,
  • A perforation of the tympanum,
  • Inflammation of the ear canal.

Symptoms that should alert you

Once the spikelet has penetrated the tissues or organs, which only takes a few days, the dog may present certain symptoms, namely
  • An abscess on the skin,
  • A high temperature, i.e. higher than 39°C,
  • A lameness,
  • A watery, red and swollen eye.
  • Frequent sneezing,
  • A nosebleed.
In some cases, the dog shakes its head strangely as if something is bothering it, and this attitude is repeated regularly. It may also lick itself locally with insistence.

Do not hesitate to take your dog to a veterinarian if you suspect that a spikelet has entered a pad, the skin or any orifice. Only a professional can remove the spike completely and check for any damage it may have caused. Of course, the sooner a veterinarian is consulted, the more likely it is that complications will be limited.

Let's not forget that the symptoms described above can lead us to suspect the presence of a spikelet, but they can also find their origin in different pathologies. The animal must therefore be treated.

Additional examinations are often necessary to identify the origin of the dog's symptoms and to locate the spikelet or identify an underlying disease.

Spikelets in dogs: what solutions?

Once it is completely buried in the tissues, the spikelet becomes invisible from the outside and since it leaves little or no trace on the epidermis, its localization is problematic, especially since it moves rapidly.

The earliest possible consultation facilitates the removal of the spikelet. But if it has completely penetrated, the dog must be anesthetized so that the veterinarian can remove the spigaou. The veterinarian will then administer the appropriate treatment, as the spikelet - as we have seen - can cause various health problems in the animal.

Spikelets: what not to do

The owner should never try to remove a spikelet embedded in the skin of his dog because the slightest residual fragment will continue its progression in the tissues or towards an organ and will cause havoc. Similarly, it is recommended not to apply any disinfectant or lotion because the local friction may encourage the penetration of the spikelet or one of its fragments.

To limit the risks of seeing your dog's health deteriorate, it is essential to inspect it after a walk in the country or simply when it has been frolicking in the lawn. Spikelets are also very present in gardens where the grass is quite high. You should check the coat, the pads and all the openings of your pet, being particularly vigilant when inspecting the ear canals of a dog with floppy ears.

As a preventive measure, you should brush your dog's coat regularly, especially if it is a long-haired or curly-haired breed such as the Afghan Greyhound and the Poodle. When appropriate, a groomer can be called in to cut the dog's hair short, at least during the spike season.

At the same time, if you have a lawn or a meadow, it is essential to regularly devote some time to its maintenance. Mowing and raking will remove as many spikelets as possible and protect the health of your pets.