Missy the cocker spaniel was almost paralysed by a grass seed that became lodged in her spine. When she failed to respond fully to treatment for weakness and fever her vets referred her to Hamilton Specialist Referrals, where advanced imaging and life-saving surgery revealed a grass seed had tracked its way into her spine.
Missy, only two years of age, had been unwell for three weeks, with a high temperature, weakness and back pain. Antibiotics had helped initially, but as her weakness started becoming worse her vets knew finding the underlying cause was vital. She was brought in to see Head Neurologist, John Parker.
John said, “When Missy arrived she looked more like a twelve year old than a two year old – she was weak, sore and feverish. We performed MRI of her back, which showed an area suspicious for infection in both the muscle and vertebral bones of her spine”.
John worked alongside Michael Hamilton to perform the surgery. Michael said, “From the images we planned a highly complex surgery to investigate and treat the infected tissue. We had to dissect around the most major blood vessel in the body, the aorta. In the middle of the infected area we found the culprit; a grass seed!”
Following surgery Missy was back to her bouncy self within two weeks. Her owners were delighted, “We couldn’t believe it when we heard the vets had found a grass seed in her spine. To think she was so unwell and could have been paralysed, and now is back to her happy, lively, waggy self so soon after surgery is incredible. We’re so thankful for the amazing work of Michael and his team, and for all their care”
Michael warns that grass seeds are a common cause of complex infections. “Grass seeds are notorious for getting stuck in ears and paws, or inhaled or swallowed. They have sharp ends and barbs so can work their way into the body and travel through to vital organs. They can be elusive to diagnose as they rarely show up on x-rays and often require advanced imaging techniques. Surgery can also be challenging – you’re looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack”.
Hamilton Specialist Referrals urge owners to do a full coat check on their dogs after every walk to remove any seeds, paying close attention to their ears, between their toes and under their armpits. This is also a good practice to check for cuts and parasites, such as ticks.
Once a seed has migrated it can lead to life-threatening symptoms. It may require complex surgery to remove, not to mention the pain and discomfort the dog will be feeling. Noticing the symptoms and having the dog seen quickly means they can be more easily removed and treated. The symptoms can include skin swelling, redness, excessive licking, head shaking, sneezing and general malaise.
We couldn’t believe it when we heard the vets had found a grass seed in her spine. To think she was so unwell and could have been paralysed, and now is back to her happy, lively, waggy self so soon after surgery is incredible. We’re so thankful for the amazing work of Michael and his team, and for all their care.Missy's owner