by Patrick P. Jones, DVM
You remember the old song; The foot bone’s connected to the leg bone. The leg bone’s connected to the knee bone…Well, as it turns out, in dogs the foot bone’s connected to the ear bone.
Clients often come to my veterinary clinic with dogs with ear infections. While I’m cleaning the dog’s ears out, I ask “So, does this guy chew his feet a lot?” The owner looks at me a bit surprised and usually answers “Well, yes. He chews his feet all the time. How did you know?” Well I must confess, I’m no psychic or animal intuitive. Nor do I speak dog with great fluency. But, I know dogs that chew their feet get ear infections.
It all starts with a chemical called histamine. Histamines are released by the body in response to an allergic stimulus. It’s the body’s mechanism for driving the foreign substance out. In humans, most of the histamine-releasing cells are located in the linings of the eyes and in the mucus membranes lining the sinuses and bronchi. So, when humans have an allergic reaction they wheeze and sneeze and cry.
In dogs, on the other hand, histamine-releasing cells are mostly located in the skin and are highly concentrated in the ears and paws. So, when a dog has an allergic reaction they don’t sneeze and wheeze. They itch, especially in their ears and paws. As the ear canals become inflamed from the histamines they swell and secrete excess fluid. This warm, wet environment becomes a perfect habitat for yeasts and bacteria and, next thing you know, you have an ear infection.
“So”, you ask, “how do we help these dogs?” By supporting the normal detox of the liver of course. Yup, the liver. What does the liver have to do with any of this? Everything. The liver is the organ that cleans and filters the blood. It is the organ that removes and breaks down the histamines. When a dog (horse, aardvark, human) has severe allergies the liver can become overloaded with histamines.