Weeds are plants that people find undesirable in a particular location. Cheatgrass is a weed I find undesirable in any location! It’s invasive, grows like bamboo, spreads fires, and can injure you and your pets!
Cheatgrass was brought to North America by European settlers. It’s now found in almost every state, covering about 70 million acres of land, but is most prevalent in the Great Basin areas like Oregon. And although it hasn’t gone away over the last two unseasonably warm years, it normally grows at the beginning of spring and dies away in the winter.
Cheatgrass takes resources away from native plants, aids in the rapid spread of fires, and reeks havoc on wildlife. Why should you care about any of this? Because Cheatgrass can get into your pets systems and literally rip them apart from the inside out! It grows among regular grass, and can easily be ingested by your pup or cat. The seeds are small and lightweight, so if an animal rubs against them ever so slightly, it could send seeds into their eyes, ears, and respiratory systems. Seeds scattered on the ground can get trapped in paw pads and work their way between toes. If left unnoticed, these seeds will twist, spin, and wiggle their way further into an animal, resulting in open sores, infections, organ damage, and even death.
What can you do to avoid this? Keep your yard free of Cheat to limit exposure. Keep your pup on leash when in areas with high levels of Cheatgrass. Keep cats indoors if you live in a neighborhood with a lot of Cheat. Perfect recall and the “leave it” cue to keep them from munching on this horrible weed. Keep coats short, and keep fur between toes even shorter. Check your pet over after every outing, and then recheck them again several hours later. Having another set of eyes is always helpful.
I recommend checking over every inch of your pet, especially if they have long, thick, or curly coats. Doodles are the ultimate prey to Cheat. Get a good Furminator that works well in your pets coat, and then check their ears, eyes, nose, mouth (including back of throat), under the collar/harness, between toes, within the paw pad, and near genitals. Keeping coats short will help keep the Cheat off, and wearing boots and goggles will help keep the eyes and feet clean. If you see any Cheatgrass on your pet that you cannot remove, call your vet immediately. I know a lot of people reading this will be like, “A seed?! Yea right, big deal!” But after spending at least $800 on an emergency Cheatgrass removal you will definitely be singing a different tune.
Cheatgrass loves hot, dry environments, so going into the shady, wet woods is always a less risky option when it comes to Cheat. Keep an eye out for Cheatgrass and call your pup away from it before they get in too deep, and keep them on leash in areas where it’s unavoidable. Become familiar with this evil weed, and take note when you find areas without it.