Can you pierce a dog's ear


Awns in the dog

From late spring to the end of summer, an at first glance inconspicuous danger lurks in uncut meadows: the awn.

Awns are plant extensions. The dangerous thing about them are the small, barely visible barbs. With these, the awns easily get caught in the fur of animals and thus promote the spread of the plants.

If the awns get into body openings such as ears, noses or between the toes, they push themselves further and further into the opening, as the barbs prevent movement in the other direction. Once the awn has migrated deeply, it can no longer be easily removed and can cause great damage.

Left: Awn removed from the nose of a dog on night emergency duty. Right: One patient had an awn in their nose and one in their ear.

In the ears they migrate to the eardrum and can destroy it, between the toes they dig deep into the skin and in the nose they can even get deep into the airways. They can also get caught in the nictitating membrane (so-called third eyelid) and cause severe irritation to the eyes. In all cases, there is drastic tissue irritation and often also purulent inflammation due to the bacteria introduced by the foreign bodies.

Symptoms of an awn

The following symptoms could indicate an awn while walking or immediately afterwards:

Between the toes:

  • Abrupt and intense licking of the paw
  • Relieve one paw or hobble
  • Swelling of the paws

In the ears

  • Shaking his head
  • Tilted head
  • Constant scratching on one ear
  • Redness in one ear

In the eyes:

  • Inflamed swollen eye
  • Squinting an eye
  • Herniated, reddened nictitating membrane (third eyelid)

In the airways:

  • Seizure-like sneezing or coughing


Contact with awns can hardly be avoided, as appropriate grasses and cereals can be found on all green areas. Some preventive measures that can be taken are:

  • Keep dogs away from uncut meadows and fields
  • Thoroughly check the fur for awns after the walk
    • In particular, inspect the ears carefully
    • Check the spaces between the toes
  • Awns adhere particularly well to long fur, so the hair in the inner ear and on the paws can be shortened accordingly

Remove awns

If an awn is still clearly visible in an opening in the body and the dog allows it, you can carefully try to remove it with tweezers.

Make sure not to push the awn deeper into the opening! If an awn is too deep to reach or if the dog does not stand still, you should definitely seek veterinary help.

If an awn sits too close to the eardrum in the ear canal, for example, it can no longer be removed without brief anesthesia and special foreign body forceps, as the eardrum can otherwise be severely damaged.