If you’re petting your dog and notice that their ears are warmer than usual, it may concern you. While it may be nothing to worry about, hot ears on dogs sometimes indicate health issues. So what are the reasons my dog’s ears might be hot?
There are many reasons why your dog’s ears might get warmer than usual or feel hot to the touch including weather, infection, bites and stings, recent vaccination, and foreign objects.
We have put together a list of the most common causes of dogs having hot ears to make it easier for you to establish the likely cause of the problem and decide whether you need to take your dog to see a veterinarian.
Are Your Dog’s Ears Definitely Hot?
You might think your dog’s ears are warm when they are at a normal temperature. Dogs have a higher body temperature than us and will often feel warm to the touch compared to our skin. If you have cold hands, this could make you think that your dog’s ears are warm.
Also, is it actually just the ears that are warm, or is the dog’s entire head hot?
If you think your dog’s ears feel warm you should definitely consider the weather. If it is a warm, sunny day then your dog’s fur will likely absorb some of that warmth, especially if they have dark fur. Even a minute in direct sunlight can increase the warmth of their fur.
Bring them to a cool area, perhaps with a fan or a cooling mat to lie on, and see if their body temperature comes down.
Then check their ears again to see if they still feel too warm. It’s important not to let your dog overheat, or they could dehydrate. Don’t let them stay in the direct sun for too long, and make sure they always have access to fresh water.
If your dog has been exercising – like running around, playing fetch or tug of war – this can increase their body temperature and cause their ears to get warm. It also means your dog probably doesn’t have a fever, as if they did they would feel lethargic and not want to play or exercise.
If your dog does have a fever, then this will increase their body temperature and could cause their ears to get warm. If their nose is runny, or warm and dry, this can be a sign of a fever. Having a fever isn’t necessarily a cause for concern — they could have the equivalent of the common cold, as dogs are susceptible to viruses just like humans are.
The most accurate way to take a dog’s temperature is rectally with a conventional thermometer. But their temperature can also be taken under their armpit or with a no-contact ear thermometer. Although not as accurate as a rectal thermometer, it may give you an indication of fever.
If your dog has a fever, it might mean that they have an infection or some type of upset stomach. If your dog does have a fever, they will usually be tired and often uninterested in eating.
It is important to make sure that they drink plenty to avoid dehydration. If the fever is accompanied by vomiting or diarrhea, you should take your dog to the vet. It can sometimes be challenging to take your dog’s temperature at home, so you might want to take them to a vet to get this checked as well.
In some cases, a fever can be a sign of poisoning. If your dog has ingested something that is toxic to them then their body temperature might rise. If you suspect that this might have happened, you should treat it as a medical emergency and get your dog to a veterinarian immediately.
An injury can also cause your dog’s ears to feel warmer. In the same way that our muscles can become inflamed and warm to the touch if injured or inflamed, this can also happen to a dog. It can be a sign of swelling, or even internal bleeding. If you think that your dog has sustained an injury, it is a good idea to seek medical attention.
One of the most common injuries a dog will sustain to their ear is a bruise. If the ear flap becomes bruised it can lead to internal bleeding in between the cartilage flaps, which can make the ear swell and give it a pillowy appearance.
The ear will also be hot to the touch and very tender. This is called a haematoma. If a haematoma is left untreated it can cause permanent damage and scarring, or become infected. Blood infections spread very quickly and can be very serious, leading to fatal conditions like sepsis.
Bites and Stings
If your dog sustains an insect bite or stung by a wasp or a bee, this can cause their skin to feel hot to the touch. Look out for any red dots, bite marks, or stingers still stuck in the skin. If your dog has been stung or bitten, they might be rubbing their ear with their paw as it will feel agitated.
Vaccinations tend to have some side effects. Some dogs may react to getting their vaccines by developing a bit of a temperature, which could cause their ears to feel warm. If you notice this side effect, then call your vet to check if it is normal.
Ear infections can cause your dog’s ears to feel hot to the touch because they become inflamed. Your dog might also be itching their ear with their paw, or rubbing it along the floor. The infected ear could also droop more than the other one.
If you think your dog has an ear infection it is important to take them to see a veterinarian to determine whether they need antibiotics. If left untreated, ear infections can become serious and even lead to deafness.
Your vet may just advise you to clean out the ear with a cleaning solution for several days whilst giving your dog some painkillers, but it is always best to get it checked.
Ear infections can be caused by ear mites, excess moisture, or even ear mites. The vet will need to look inside your dog’s ear with an otoscope- this can be painful and the vet may ask if they can put your dog in a muzzle.
Certain breeds of dog are more susceptible to ear infections because of their deep ear canals, or their tendency to spend a lot of time in water. If your dog repeatedly suffers from ear infections, speak to your vet about prevention and long term treatment.
Spaniels and labradors in particular tend to get a lot of ear infections, as well as long eared dogs like basset hounds. It is also possible for your dog’s ears to become inflamed without becoming infected — they could have a build up of wax or irritated skin.
If your dog loves playing in the water but suffers from regular ear infections, you could try blotting the excess water out of their ears after a swim. If your dog tends to suffer from waxy ears, clean them out regularly to avoid an infection developing.
Dog’s ears are designed to keep leaves, twigs, and other foreign bodies out of the ear canal, but it doesn’t always work. It is even more likely to happen to dogs with erect rather than floppy ears.
If foreign body gets stuck in your dog’s ear canal, this will cause irritation and inflammation and could cause the temperature of the ear to rise. You might be able to extract the foreign body yourself, but if you aren’t confident or you could risk causing an injury then you should take your dog to a veterinarian.
If your dog is allergic to certain plants, then grass, seeds, leaves and other things can cause inflammation if they come into contact with the ear.
There are medications available for dogs with allergies, and sprays to relieve the symptoms of grass allergies etc. If your dog has an allergy like this, you will likely notice symptoms on more than one area of their body or skin.
Behaviors To Look Out For
Many of the issues listed above will cause discomfort for your dog. There are certain signs and behaviors you can look out for which indicate that your dog might be experiencing ear discomfort.
As we mentioned earlier, your dog might try to itch their ear with their paw. This is generally a bad idea, as the dirt under their nails can end up causing more issues. They can also accidentally scratch their inner ear.
Try and relieve your dog’s discomfort by gently rubbing their ear and massaging the base of the ear. Only do this if your dog seems to like it; if they are in pain, stop immediately.
Keep an eye out to see if your dog rubs their head along the wall or the floor to itch their ear. They might also shake their head to try and relieve the itching and pain, and the affected ear could become floppy.
If your dog has an infected, waxy or inflamed ear then it might have an unusual smell. It could be quite strong and cheesy, or musky.
There are lots of possible reasons why your dog’s ears have become hot to the touch. Once you have ruled out warm weather, over-exertion, a vaccination side effect or your hands being cold, there is still a long list of options which vary in terms of how serious they are and whether medical attention is required.
You could be dealing with a fever, an infection, poisoning, an injury, an insect bite or sting, or a foreign body. Not all of these possible causes of warm ears are a medical emergency, but it is always better to be safe than sorry.
If you are unsure whether your dog needs to see a veterinarian, it is best to take them just in case. If certain issues with the ears are left untreated, they can lead to long term hearing difficulties which will impact your dog’s quality of life.