What is a Grass Awn and Why Are They Trouble?

With a dog that wanders around outside often, grass might not be thought of as a danger. Grass awns go by many nicknames such as foxtails, June grass, and mean seeds. They all refer to the same bristle-like objects that come from grasses such as rye and barley. These bristles are meant to stick to passing animals and spread seed to surrounding areas.

The awns don’t just stay in the dog’s fur until they are eventually rubbed out. They stick into the skin and can irritate it. Puncture wounds from awns can be severe enough to cause infection. They can also continue traveling through the dog causing damage to internal tissues and organs.1

Symptoms of an infection from a grass awn include skin inflammation, redness, and pus-filled sores. Other symptoms include excessive licking and scratching of the area, decreased appetite, and depression.

If there is an awn in the dog’s coat, remove it as quickly as possible by either brushing it out or pulling it out by hand. If the awn is inside the dog’s nose, get the pet to a vet rather than trying to remove it yourself. It’s easy to break off an awn, leading to an incomplete removal. The part that’s left behind can travel through the dog’s body and cause damage.2

The best way to prevent awn-related problems is to look over the dog carefully whenever it comes inside. Removing awns before they become stuck is the best way to prevent potential problems.


  1. Moretti G, Birettoni F, Caivano D, Nannarone S, Crovace A, Porciello F, Bufalari A. Mini-invasive approach for removal of iliopsoas migrating grass awns with an atraumatic wound retractor. J Small Anim Pract. 2021 Feb;62(2):150-155. doi: 10.1111/jsap.13066. Epub 2019 Sep 11. PMID: 31512264.
  2. Logothetou V, Casado Bregón D, Lataretu A, Isaya R, Eiras-Diaz A, Shimizu N. Migrating grass awns in the proximal ureter of a dog. J Small Anim Pract. 2022 Aug;63(8):642. doi: 10.1111/jsap.13501. Epub 2022 Apr 6. PMID: 35385157.
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