Your dog is not getting or “catching” ear infections. Your dog is suffering from a condition that promotes uncontrolled growth of bacteria and yeast that normally live in his ear.
The immune response to control the bacteria and yeast overgrowth causes the inflammation that results in her red, swollen, painful ears. So what conditions contribute to this inflammation?
All of these causes have the same thing in common: they cause an increase in wax production by the cells lining the ear canals. This extra wax is food for the bacteria and yeast that are normal inhabitants of the ear canals. With all of the extra food they multiply explosively. The immune system tries to stop the growth by an immune response to kill the bacteria and yeast. This response initiates the release of histamines and other chemicals from white blood cells that cause inflammation and the ears become red and swollen.
Often dogs will scratch at their face and ears or rub the ears on the ground, cement or stucco walls causing severe wounds to the face and ear flaps or “pinnas.”Some dogs will shake their heads so violently they cause blood vessels to break in the pinna causing huge collections of blood called hematomas that need surgical relief.
Myths about ear problems
Common belief, perpetuated by the internet, is that dogs with floppy ears and dogs that swim are more likely to have ear problems. There is no truth to these claims. Vets see as many, if not more, dogs with perky, upright ears with the same recurrent problem. And the truth is that most of the dogs we treat for ear infections hate water or do not swim on a regular basis, if at all. “Swimmer’s ear” was mistakenly created by veterinarians for lack of a better explanation for ear problems to their clients.
Think about it.
Your vet says your dog has swimmers ear from water trapped in the ear.
His solution- put more liquid in the ear in the form of ear wash so it can get trapped. Doesn’t make sense does it? Dogs eliminate virtually all of liquid in their ears when they shake their head after they fill with water. Microscopic hairs that line the ear canal beat in a pattern that pushes any remaining liquid up the canal and out the ear opening. Trying to rid the ear of water with Q-tips actually damages these hairs and interferes with their job, trapping fluid in the ear.
Next blog: How to treat ear infections in dogs.