McInteer articles – Nocardia, Speargrass
Nocardia Infections in Bird Dogs
The “Bad” Grass List
I read your report in GUN DOG MAG.(aug. 09) Last year I pulled a grass awn from my dogs nose (4.75 inches long)…..which at the time I did not have any idea what it was until I saw the story. It was firmly, and I do mean firmly, attatched in his nasal, with just the tip growing out 1/8 of an inch of his nostral. He had sneezing fits for a year and I had know idea why? I happened to be laying on the floor and saw the tip of it. I actually had to get a pair of needle nose pliers to pull it out, and it was very painful to him. He did not suffer any long term affects due to this. He is a German wirehair pointer and a hunting fool, he picked it up in the Grangville to Riggins area of Idaho, in the Salmon River Canyon. Thank you for the information, I will be more knowlegable when it comes to this threat.
Our Goldendoodle Willow, who is not even 2 years old yet, started to “slow down” when pheasant hunting this past November. She was taken to the Vet because it seemed that she was experiencing a little discomfort along her back left leg. The Vet prescribed DeraMax, and for a time, it seemed to relieve her symptoms, but she still did not regain her former enthusiasm for the hunt.
In early January, 2010, she begain exhibiting a “hunched up” posture, stopped running, and quit climbing our stairs. She had difficulty getting up from the floor, and also lowering herself down to the floor. She went to the Vet again, had x-rays and a full blood work up, with negative results. The Vet stated that she thought Willow may have a “disc problem”, and she was prescribed Prednisone to reduce possible inflammation.
One week later, Willow was not improved, worse yet, she was in so much pain that she could barely lay down, or get back up, and was suffering from muscle spasms along her back, legs and abdomen. The Vet was contacted again, and she was prescribed a PRN muscle relaxer, as the Vet said that any pain meds were contraindicated while she took Prednisone. The Vet referred Willow to the University of Minnesota Veterinary Clinic, for an appointment in the neurology deptartment.
On January 25th, Willow was examined by the U of M Neurology Vet and she stated she was fairly certain that Willow had a slipped disc, but needed an MRI to make a correct diagnosis.
On January 26th, Willow was anethestitized and the MRI was completed. The Vet called us to report that Willow did not have a slipped disc, and there was no compression of her spine. Willow did, however, have a large abcessed area under the muscle around the 2nd and 3rd lumbar vertabrae, with the disc and vertabrae being infected as well.(discospondilytis) No wonder Willow was in such pain. She explained that the likely cause was that a plant awn had migrated to Willow’s spinal region, which set up a nasty infection. We gave consent for a Ultrasound guided needle biopsy. A sample of the abcess contents was obtained and as this is written, the results are still pending as the cultures are not complete.
Willow is now taking Cephaxen and Clindamycin, and will continue on antibiotics for at least 6 weeks. She’s taking two differenct antibiotics, as she needs to be treated for anaerobic as well as aerobic bacterial infections. She was prescribed Tramadol for the pain, which we’re giving her every 12 hours, as needed.
This is our first experience with a possible plant awn, and my husband is still incredulous after having hunted dogs for many years. Needless to say, we’ve been warning everyone we know that owns a dog, to be on the lookout for changes in behavior and unusual symptoms in their dogs, as a plant awn may be the culprit.
I recently had a suspected case of Foxtail foreign body in one of my cllient’s top field trial GSPs. He requested that I share his dogs information. I’ll submit a case history form hopefully within the next week.
We are in our 2nd week of postoperative care of our 10 year field lab. My husband hunted with her in Canada in October 2009 and she exhibited no overt symptoms of illness until the last week of January 2010, namely shivering and off her feed. The regular vet diagnosed it as a UTI, but after 3 days on an antibiotic, I noticed her breathing was rapid and shallow, so we immediately took her to the vet hospital near us. Only 125cc of fluid was drawn as it was thick and gunky. The recommendation was exploratory surgery whereupon pyothorax was found and a gross amount of mediastinal infection. We brought her home and 5 days later had to be taken back due to a severe wound infection. We brought her home again and gave her IV fluid and Amikacin SQ and right now the wound looks clean and dry. Our usual vet had no experience with this. Previously, in 2001, we had a lab with Erlichea which was unknown in this area but was successfully treated at the same vet hospital.
I’m hoping this site will provide much needed information – most of the vets in our area are not knowledgeable about what hunting dogs can get into. Although the culprit was not found (probably because of the enormous amount of infection which the surgeon described as nothing he had ever seen), it would seem our lab got nailed by Foxtail.
My english springer is currently in the Unniversity of Saskatchewan Vet hospital getting his chest cavity flushed with chest tubes. He is now being flushed every 4 hours for 7-10 days. He has a PLEURITIS infection in his chest caused by some foreign object probably a grass awn. Hopefully everything works!
Angie: good luck with your dog’s treatment. We’ve had several pyothorax cases ourselves, and generally the treatment is effective. If you would please submit the case history via the web form or if you’d prefer, downloading the paper version, I would be most grateful for the data point.
I hope that you find the information here useful.
Hi Thank you so much for the information. 2 weeks ago on a trip to Saskatchewan our Newfoundland was running through a field and as a result suffered multiple piercings by grass awns. No body here had any idea what the situation was or how to deal with it. To date we have removed over 150 ! yes that is correct many have abccessed and she underwent her first surgery yesterday. She is a real fighter and we are under no illusions now as to the seriousness of the situation. Would you be interested in including a Newfie in your study?
Let me know. She will be undergoing surgery again next week as we know she has countless more.
Lyn: I welcome any relevant information. Not only hunting dogs are affected by this problem. Good luck to your Newfie, please keep us posted on her progress.
Do you keep history on non-sporting dogs? A grass awn killed my little Cairn terrier last year.
Linda, I am so sorry to hear about your terrier. Yes, all case histories are relevant. Do you know where your dog was infected?
My 2 year old female wirehaired pointing griffon developed an infection in her anus that initially looked like an anal sac infection. After 5 days treatment with no improvement, my vet explored and found a 2″ grass awn migrating into the rectum. She was one of the few that knew to culture for Antinomycosis. The dog is worked/hunted in the shrup-steppe about 6 months of the year, up to five times a week, and the hospital was seeing infections in bird dogs. Treatment was flushing for about two weeks, and 6 months on Pen-VK. Three months may have done it, but the vet recommended the longer term just to be sure. She had seen some recurrence. A limiting factor for some might be the high cost of the drug. What my message here is that increasing awareness with owners leading to routine exams for lesions after being in the field, and awareness of veterinarians that this should not be overlooked. The dog recovered with no problems..
Katherine, thanks for taking time to submit the history on your Griffon. I’m glad that she has recovered without further issues.
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