Awns – an easy-to-miss danger

Grannenfeld Grannenfeld

Awns are small but mighty. They are seeds that mainly grow on grain and grasses. Between June and September, they can be found in fields, along roadsides and in green areas in cities. They consist of a seed enclosed in sharp hairs that can penetrate our dogs’ fur and even their skin. They can also fall into their ears, from where they can reach the eardrum and even break through it. If they get into your dog's eye, awns often hide under the eyelids and cause great discomfort. Last but not least, they can get stuck between the toes of their paws, perforate the skin there and cause injuries.  

Awns in the ear and eye

If an awn has found its way into the ear, the symptoms are hard to miss. Your dog will suddenly start shaking its head in the hope of getting rid of the corpus delicti.Unfortunately, they rarely succeed and the awn makes its way down into the auditory canal. A vet can remove them from there with an alligator forceps.

If, after a walk, one of your dog's eyes is swollen, red and watering, and your furry friend also tries to scratch this eye with his paw, then the next step is a visit to a veterinary clinic. The awn must be removed and the eye examined for any injury to the cornea.




Hund sitzt in einem Feld umgeben von Grannen Hund sitzt in einem Feld umgeben von Grannen

Awns in the nose and skin

Big sniffers among dogs sometimes manage to inhale an awn through their noses.In these cases, there will be sudden sneezing fits as the body tries to launch the awn back out of the nose. If this doesn't work, the dog will try to scratch their nose with their paw, and possibly even begin reverse sneezing. If these defence mechanisms do not work, veterinary advice should be sought out.
If the awns make their way into the paws, it is not always obvious. Awns can get stuck between the toes and slowly dig into the skin. At first, the dog's injury will hardly be noticeable. Over time, the body develops inflammation and swelling, which is usually very painful.
Awns can also get stuck in the dog's flank or back and pierce deep into the skin. I remember a case in the clinic where an awn had dug its way to the spine. As you can see, awns are capable of causing serious health problems.

Precautions for preventing injuries from awns 


What you can do at home: : 

  • Check your dog's coat for awns after every walk.The ears, nose, throat and paws must be thoroughly examined. Use your fingers to gently brush through the coat and inspect any grass or weeds that have latched on to your dog.
  • Keep your dog's coat trimmed short. Awns get caught more easily and are harder to detect in longer fur coats.
  • Pay attention to what plants are growing in your area. Avoid – as much as possible – areas where grasses or grains such as rye, wheat and barley sprout.
  • If you find awns that have latched onto to your dog , remove them immediately. To do this, use a tweezers or a special forceps and carefully pull out the awn. If you are unsure how to remove the awn, contact your trusted vet. 


Our Expert

Sanja Polz, BVetMed MRCVS CCRP

Veterinarian Sanja Polz supports us at DOG'S LOVE and CAT'S LOVE with her expertise. After completing her studies at the Royal Veterinary College, London, she went on to receive in-depth specialist training at home and abroad. Meanwhile, Sanja has been running her own practice, CityVet, in Vienna for several years.