Pet owners beware: the spiky seeds that can hurt pets are out earlier than normal

spiky seeds pets

Spiky seed pods, called épillets locally, are out a full month earlier than usual, and with them comes the danger of these sea urchin-like seeds becoming painfully lodged in the ears and noses of our furry friends.  

Usually seen from June onwards, the warmer and drier conditions in the south of France have, this year, led to an early emergence of these spiky seeds.  

The spikes of the épillet attach themselves to anything that passes by them and act like a creeping harpoon that embeds itself to the host. As the host moves, they tend to move forward in one direction, usually toward the skin, where they can become serious irritants.  

Humans can simply remove them from socks or clothing and be done with them, but with pets, they often find their way into noses or ears, where they become trapped and dig deeper into the orifices, becoming incredibly painful and sometimes requiring the assistance of a vet to dislodge them. This often requires putting the animal under anaesthesia, a dangerous and expensive thing to do in itself.  


The best way to avoid these pesky pods is to cut them down before they have a chance to form. Whilst this is possible at one’s own home, it is another story in the great outdoors. This means that preparing pets is the best way to go.  

Vets recommend shaving the fur in the interior of the ear or giving them a thick coating of Vaseline to stop the épillets from having anything to hold onto as a good start. Even with these precautions, it is advised to check after every walk, not just ears and noses, but the fur as well, with a focus on paws. This treatment goes for cats as well as dogs.  

For people with long-eared pets, “snoods” can be wrapped around the dog’s head to prevent the pods’ entry. This may not help the dog win any beauty contests, but it could stop the need for an emergency visit to the vet. 

Signs that the animal has picked up an épillet in a sensitive region will include violent head shaking and scratching at the ears, nose or even eyes. The animal may also become agitated, so look for behavioural changes. If a lodged épillet is suspected, take the animal directly to the vet and get it taken care of.  

The best prevention is vigilance, but if it does happen, be proactive. Trained vets know what to do, and the sooner the offending pod is removed, the sooner Fido or Spot will be back to their normal happy selves.  


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Photo source: Pixabay