Cheatgrass is causing big problems for pets

Cheatgrass a health hazard for pets

BOISE -- Cheatgrass is causing problems throughout Idaho and the West. It's an invasive weed species choking out native vegetation.

It acts as big fuel for wildfires and can be a problem for pets. Furthermore, as Hannah Parpart with the Idaho Humane Society puts it, "it's everywhere."

It's on the ground, on our hills, on our pets, and occasionally 'in' our pets.

"It can very easily stick in pets' skin and some of the most common places we see it are in dogs' paws, but also in their ears and their eyes, and sometimes in their nose," Parpart said.

The Humane Society is seeing a lot of pets come in with cheatgrass infections. Often, the grass has to be surgically removed. What's worse, once it gets under the skin, it can travel to other parts of the body.

"There's always those stories of cheatgrass making it all the way up into sinuses or into even muscle or things like that, where it's gone farther up into the animal's body, which can be pretty dangerous for them," Parpart said.

It's a danger that Karissa Ziemann is well aware of. She likes to take her dog, Bear, into the Boise foothills, and says he's always bringing back cheatgrass.

"Recently, I have been finding it around my house, mostly in my couch, which is where it seems to get caught up," she said.

Veterinarians say finding it before it works its way under the skin is the key. Pet owners should always check dogs after walks, and check cats after they come in from outside, whether they were in the hills or not. Catching cheatgrass early can help your pet avoid big health problems.

"It's definitely a concern for pet owners because it can mean big vet bills and a lot of discomfort for your pet too," Parpart said.

She adds that you can help out your pet by keeping them on a leash and on the trail if you're walking them in the foothills. Also, do your best to keep cheatgrass off your property. That helps everyone.


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