Cheat grass is a ubiquitous problem in the treasure valley. They are also known as fox tails and grass awns. Cheat grass is a nuisance in our yards and gardens, but can become huge problems in our pets. These nasty little things can get stuck in ears, eyes, feet, nostrils, tonsils and even travel into the lungs. If you see cheat grass present on the fur of your pet you should remove it right away to avoid it traveling to other places.When cheat grass gets stuck in between the toes it will poke through the skin and travel up the leg and forms abscesses between the toes. Sedation is often needed to explore these abscesses to find the cheat grass. Sometimes it hides really well and can take multiple attempts to find it.
If your pet is outside and suddenly starts shaking it head or pawing at one of its ears it very likely could have a cheat grass. Also if it starts sneezing suddenly and continuously it may have a cheat grass in its nostril. Usually the cheat grass is deep in the ear canal or nostril and cannot be seen at home. A trip to the veterinarian will be needed and again sedation may be needed to remove it.
If a piece of cheat grass gets in the eye of your pet it can hide under the third eyelid. Usually your pet will not open the eye and the eye is swollen with a yellowish discharge. This is very painful and should be examined to remove it and assess the cornea for scratches. When pets chew on grass they are at risk for having cheat grass get stuck in their tonsils. They will usually hypersalivate and swallow a lot. They may also have a gagging type cough. Sometimes they will cough out the cheat grass, but most of the time they have to be sedated to remove it.
Cheat grass has an amazing ability to travel through the body and can be found anywhere including around the rectum, vulva, or penis. It can also travel into the lungs and cause severe and life threatening infections require thoracic surgery. At any time you think your pet is having difficulty breathing it should be examined right away.
Avoiding cheat grass is nearly impossible as it can be blown around, but if you see a large amount of cheat grass present in an area it is best to avoid it and not let your pets play there. Cheat grass is the largest problem in the summer when it has dried and turned brown, but don’t be fooled the green pieces can still cause an issue.