Beware the “Awn”

This is not related to the sky or observing, but is something about which any pet-owner, and especially the owner of outdoor pets, should be aware.

(Foxtail grass with dart-like awns on the pavement. The image here is of just one type of awn. Typically they are shaped like a dart or spearhead, and about a half inch to two and a half inches long. Click for a larger view.)

We have been aware of this and have been trying to protect our dogs for years. However, a little over a week ago (I do not know the exact timing) one of our dogs was “infected” with a “grass awn,” basically a seed from various tall grasses. (I’m pretty sure it was a foxtail awn.) Nature has programmed these seeds to bury themselves in the ground for proper germination. It seems to be a particularly effect method of propagating the species of plant and, in that sense, one of Nature’s triumphs.

It isn’t all good, though. You see, the “awn” cannot distinguish between soil and skin. It will blindly embed itself into skin just as readily as into soil. That is what happened when a grass awn got caught between the toes on the paw of one of my dogs. We did not find it immediately, and over a couple of days it worked its way into the soft skin between the toes and started what must have been an immense source of irritation. My dog, Sachi, began licking the area incessantly, trying in her way to remove it. This turned  it raw and greatly irritated. She is prone to allergic reactions, so we gave her benadryl, not knowing about the awn. It didn’t help much.

Several days later I discovered the awn and removed it. I cleaned the area and applied a topical antibiotic, and then wrapped it. This did not seem to help, so by this past Sunday (Fathers’s Day, June 17, 2012), the site at which the awn had penetrated between her toes began to bleed through the bandages. We took her to the vet (Alameda East because our longtime and greatly loved vet, Dr. Robert James at Aspen Commons, was not available on Sunday). They removed a bit of the awn that had been left when I pulled the visible part out, cleaned the wound and re wrapped it, and gave us antibiotics. Now, as of Tuesday, Sachi seems to be doing much better.

Moral: be very careful to check and completely remove any awns you find. I cannot say from personal experience, but it must be like a hard burr or super splinter that you cannot pull out. Check your dogs frequently, especially if they get into the tall grass.


About Starman

Cosmic Awareness Facilitator. Astronomy, space, physics, science, planets, cosmology, reason, logic, clouds, sky phenomena, the environment, dogs and other animals, and other interesting stuff.
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One Response to Beware the “Awn”

  1. Starman says:

    Reblogged this on Starman's Meanderings and commented:

    It’s that time of year again for nasty little grass awns. This piece is several years old, but still perfectly applicable.

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