The Grass Awn project started when I had a field-bred English Springer Spaniel that suffered recurring bouts of unexplained illness approximately every three months for almost a year. Tai’s illness finally culminated in a pyothorax that required chest drains at the University of Wisconsin – Madison veterinary hospital. About this same time, one of our friends had a dog with a very similar case history right down to almost identical timing of his symptoms showing up, but Mo wasn’t so fortunate as Tai and died of his infection. As I kept digging into the problem, I learned of other dogs that were or had been ill and an unfortunate number that died, at least some because neither their owners nor their veterinarians recognized the source of the problem until it was too late to begin effective treatment. I started this site to provide a source of information around this issue and to facilitate gathering of case history data so that we can attempt to formulate an action plan to reduce the numbers of affected dogs and save others the worry and heartache that I’ve been through with my own dogs and those of my friends.

Cathy Lewis

12 Responses to About

  1. Betsy Sippel says:

    Thankful to have found your website. We are currently battling what we believe to be a similar problem with our Gordon Setter. We live in northern WI. Also had recurring bouts of unexplained ilness since June. His last episode being the worst, we finally ran him into emergency at the U of MN. About a week ago they did surgery in his lumbar area removing and draining a large abscess but no luck finding any foreign body. He seems to be doing well but I’m fearful this isn’t the end of it and not sure if our budget can take much more. He’s not even two years old yet and we love him dearly. This just SUCKS!!!!

    Thanks so much for providing this website. I will pass it on and spread the word.

  2. admin says:

    Betsy: I hear you on the cost. This is why I recommend pet insurance for our dogs that are at significant risk for this problem. I hope that your Gordon recovers easily from his surgery and that this is the last of his problems.

  3. James Mills DVM says:

    contact me for treatment options and some tips on prevention. We have been dealing with action for the last 25years in our field trial pointers and setters.

    The things we have learned can help all types of hunting dogs.

    Just a veterinarian that runs field trial pointers.

    James mills dvm

  4. admin says:

    Dr. Mills:

    Thank you for stopping by. I would love for you to write an article for the site to share your knowledge!

    UPDATE: Thanks to Dr. Pat McInteer and Dr. Mills for sharing an article that they co-wrote previously on this subject. See Pages links from the Home page.

  5. Erika Werne says:

    The AKC Canine Health Foundation has funded research into the Mean Seeds problem. We’d like to use some of your pictures for an article on the subject. May we have permission?

    Thank you,
    Erika Werne
    Director of Education & Communications
    AKC Canine Health Foundation

  6. Lisa P says:

    Thank you for posting this info… we have a 5 y.o. black lab (amazing hunter and family member) who has been sick off and on since late last fall. He has a mass on his side that on xray, does not appear to be attached to a rib. His symptoms have been flaring up over the last week–fever, increased size and density of the mass, and lethargy. We started him back on antibiotics yesterday and he is scheduled for surgery on Tuesday morning with a vet who is a grad of U of Wisconsin’s vet school. Now we’ll know more about what to look for as many of his symptoms seem to match grass awn disease. My husband figured it out after reading the article about Grady in Field Retriever News… I’m now on the task of finding everything out about this that I can!

  7. admin says:

    Lisa: Please feel free to contact me if I can be of any assistance, seeddemon [AT] meanseeds.com.

  8. Rob Timmons says:

    I thank you for the website as well.

    My wife and I live in a lodgepole pine/aspen forest in the Rocky Mountains in Conifer, Colorado and our little yorkie-mix (rescue dog) is now being treated for a grass-awn abscess that nearly closed off her throat. She had been hungry, but couldn’t swallow. In fact, she couldn’t even bark.

    We took her to a reputable Denver animal hospital where they anesthetized her, found a palpable mass in her throat area that they first thought may have been a thyroid mass and then noticed that there was a reddened area in her throat that was draining some pus and they also were able to see a (tiny) grass awn via ultrasound. I’ve seen the captured image; no doubt that it’s an awn and it matches the appearance of awns on our property. They suggested surgery to extract the awn (located about 2 cm down from behind her left ear), but it was in an anatomically dangerous area (optic nerve, windpipe, etc., etc.), so their suggestion was filled with caveats. They also told us they could “manage” the awn even if it remained in place (or even if it migrated). We chose not to have the surgery done because they had told us there were even no guarantees they could find and remove it. Risk-benefit way too high.

    Anyway, at the moment, she’s recovering nicely with clindamycin and Baytril and is almost back to her normal self.

    However, and it’s a big “however,” I’ve very concerned about what will transpire from his point forward because the vet is no longer talking about management of the condition. She’s told us she wants to stop antibiotics after four weeks and then see what happens.

    So here’s what I’d like to know: can the antibiotics “cure” this for good or will the awn possibly be able to harbor/hide bacteria that will have the ability to re-infect once antibiotics are stopped?

    And then, additionally, I’d like to know if something like antibiotic maintenance therapy can be used wherein we just keep her on a low dose of antibiotics to prevent future infections.

    I would love to be able to have Dr. Mills (above) give me some advice on this, but I don’t see any contact option available for him here.

    Thank you so much!

    Rob Timmons

  9. Andrea Dobson CVT says:

    Thank you Cathy, for bringing this site to life! As a veterinary technician working in a veterinary referral/specialty center, as well as an avid Sporting Dog enthusiast (Flat Coated Retrievers and Field Spaniels), I feel that this is a subject that needs spotlighting! Keep up the good work, I keep passing the web address on to everyone I can think of!

  10. admin says:

    Thanks, Andrea :). I’m glad that you find the site useful!

  11. Tom Dorroh says:

    We have just undergone the second surgery with our Hunt Test Lab. First one they couldn’t find any foreign object. Second surgery (3 wks later) they found a foreign object.

    Question: I have the foreign object in gause in a pill bottle. Is there a way I can get this identified?

  12. Liz O. says:

    Is this site still being maintained? Have you ever seen any issues associated with early water grass (grows in rice fields)?

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