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Dog owners warned about grass awn danger after Frankie the pug is paralysed from waist down

Dog owners have been warned about the dangers which grass awns could pose to their pets this summer, following a case of a pug that suffered an abscess that compressed his spinal cord.

Cambridgeshire veterinary referral centre Dick White Referrals (DWR) in Six Mile Bottom has dealt with cases of dogs becoming seriously unwell after inhaling, swallowing or having their skin punctured by grass awns, which can lead to infection and abscesses.

Frankie, a pug who was operated on at Dick White Referrals in Six Mile Bottom
Frankie, a pug who was operated on at Dick White Referrals in Six Mile Bottom

Grass awns are seed pods which grow from the ear or flower of many wild grasses and grains. They tend to flower in summer and the grass awns they produce have sharp bristles, which can become matted in a dog’s fur or puncture their skin.

Once inside a dog’s skin, the awn can travel around the body and cause issues such as abscesses and infections in major organs.

Simon Tappin, clinical director at DWR, said: “Grass awns are small but the danger which they pose to dogs should not be underestimated. They can be swallowed or inhaled, or they can get into a dog’s body by burrowing into the skin.

“If your dog is in distress and you think a grass awn may be to blame, the best course of action is to take them to see a vet as quickly as possible.

“The longer a grass awn is inside a dog, the more time it has to travel around the body, reaching major organs and causing problems.”

The team at DWR performed surgery on Frankie, a 17-week-old pug, after he inhaled two grass awns.

They had travelled through his body to his spine, causing an abscess which compressed his spinal cord and left him paralysed from the waist down.

When the soft tissue surgery team at DWR operated on Frankie, they found a large abscess and two grass awns in his spinal canal.

Frankie is now back to his usual self
Frankie is now back to his usual self

Following surgery, nursing care and a rehabilitation programme, Frankie is now back to his usual active, happy self.

His owner Vicky Mycroft, 36, from Letchworth, Hertfordshire, said: “It’s scary to think that a little grass seed can kill a dog, but it got to the stage where Frankie had to have spinal surgery or be put to sleep.

“I had always wanted to have a pug and we rescued Frankie when he was only a couple of months old.

“We were out on his first walk on the greenway near our home when he inhaled the seeds.

“The whole family was gutted by what happened to him but thankfully, following the surgery, he gradually got stronger and better.

“He is now one year old and he is making up for lost time, running around and behaving like a typical puppy.”

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