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Why does my dog have cold ears

The essentials

  • Doggie ears can get cold — And sometimes, there may or may not be an underlying cause or pathology. Your dog’s ears sit at one of the farthest points from their core, which could be the lone cause of chilly ears. 
  • If you’re concerned about cold ears, call your veterinarian — They can do a total body inspection to see if there’s a medical reason behind the chill.
  • Be extra careful in the winter time — Dress your dog warmly and don’t stay out long when the weather shifts. Taking care in the colder seasons can stop your dog from getting frostbite, hypothermia, and other related issues.

Your dog’s ears are pretty amazing. You might have noticed they can pick up on the sound of a cheese wrapper opening when they’re dead asleep two rooms away. But when it comes to temperature, your dog’s ears can get pretty chilly.

Before you panic, it’s important to remember that your dog’s ears are far from their heart. Since blood circulation takes a while to get there, their ears are one of the first parts of their bodies to feel cold. Your dog’s ears, along with their paws, nose, and fur, are also likely to get wet when your pup plays outside in rain or snow. But there are some additional reasons why your puppy’s ears might feel cold, too.

6 reasons your dog’s ears feel cold

  1. Circulation issues. If your dog has issues with their circulatory system, they might get cold ears. Blood flow to their ears helps keep dogs warm, so poor circulation might be one reason your pup’s ears are cold to the touch.
  2. Frostbite. Tissue damage can occur after prolonged exposure to cold weather. If your dog’s ears feel really cold or you notice other symptoms like swelling, blue or gray skin, or blisters, you should contact your vet ASAP, as these are all signs of frostbite.  In severe cases, your dog’s skin may be black.
  3. Hypothermia. While hypothermia or low body temperature can be caused by spending too much time in the cold, it can also be an issue for small dogs that just had surgery. If your pup has cold ears and is shivering, check your dog’s temperature with a digital thermometer. A low temperature in dogs is considered anything below 99°F. Prolonged hypothermia can be life-threatening, so if this is a possibility, it’s important to seek veterinary care.
  4. Age, breed, and size. These are all factors that impact how quickly a dog’s ears become cold. Senior dogs, puppies, small dogs, underweight dogs, and dogs with short fur tend to get cold more easily than other dogs.
  5. Hypovolemic shock. Generally the result of an injury, hypovolemic shock occurs as a result of low blood volume due to a hemorrhage, dehydration, or an issue related to fluid distribution. Loss of whole blood may be caused by an external wound or internal bleeding.
  6. Parvo. If not treated early, this type of viral illness is highly contagious and often fatal in puppies. Canine parvovirus symptoms include bloody diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, loss of appetite, and lethargy. If your dog has a severe case of parvo, their entire body (and not just their ears) will be cold due to dehydration and poor blood circulation, the latter of which can eventually lead to shock.

What to do about cold dog ears

Since a number of conditions can cause your dog’s ears to be cold, it’s important to take your pup to the vet to properly diagnose and determine the cause. Your vet will likely ask you questions about when you first noticed your dog’s cold ears, what they’ve been doing, and how long they were outside.

Once they’ve conducted a physical exam and performed any necessary diagnostic testing such as blood work or a urinalysis, they’ll then be able to discuss possible causes and treatment options with you.

Taking your pup’s body temperature

If your dog has cold ears, you might need to take their temperature to rule out hypothermia. It’s important to remember that dogs run a lot warmer than us humans. What’s considered a fever in humans is normal for dogs. A dog’s body temperature is generally between 100 and 102.5°F, but some dogs can fall slightly above or below that range.

If your dog’s temperature is above 104°F or below 99°F, you should call your vet, as this is generally cause for concern.

To take your dog’s temperature, you’ll need to use an animal-safe thermometer. The most accurate method for getting your pup’s body temperature is to take it rectally since temperatures taken by ear aren’t always accurate. Pet parents can also take their dog’s temperature by placing the thermometer in their dog’s armpit. You’ll want to avoid using an infrared, contact-free thermometer, as these can be prone to inaccurate readings.

🚨Never use a mercury thermometer when taking a dog’s temperature. This type of thermometer can easily break, exposing your pup to the toxins inside.

Signs your dog is cold

While cold ears may be cause for concern, your pup may be trying to tell you it’s time to turn up the heat or grab a blanket! If you notice any of the following symptoms, your pup could be chilly:

  • Shivering. Like humans, dogs shiver when they’re cold. Watch the shivers, though, to make sure it’s not a sign of something more. Cold shivering is generally light shivering — not teeth-chattering, violent shakes. If you notice harder shaking in your dog (especially that comes and goes in bursts), consider taking them in. 
  • Whining or whimpering. Some dogs might vocalize when they’re cold, whimpering or whining. This is different from a sign of distress, which sounds like pained howling or sharp yips. 
  • Hunching over or tucking their tail. If you notice your dog tucking their tail and burrowing into the nearest blanket or bed, they’re likely cold. If you notice excessive hunching or pained walking, however, it could be a sign of something more. Evaluate what you see with the other symptoms on this list and determine if a vet trip is needed. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. 
  • Appearing uncomfortable. Coldness is never comfortable. If you notice your furry friend making repetitive donut or nesting motions or seeming generally anxious or uncomfortable, invite them in for a cuddle and snooze.
  • Seeking shelter. Your pet is hard-wired to seek shelter and warmth if they’re cold, a behavior harkening back to their wild wolf ancestors.

Treating your pup’s cold ears

Treatment will be dependent on the root cause, so you’ll need to first understand why your dog has cold ears.

If your dog is experiencing frostbite or has a history of heart problems, your vet may provide treatment to help improve circulation and ensure adequate blood flow to their ears.

If your dog is experiencing frostbite, make sure you don’t rub their ears to warm them up. Call your vet’s office for instructions, as treatment will depend on how badly frostbitten your pup’s ears are.

How to warm up cold dog ears 

Looking for ways to warm up your dog’s ears? These warming techniques are sure to help — whether your pet has just played in cold temperatures or needs a little extra help staying toasty. 

Treat for any medical issues — Certain medical conditions such as circulation issues can lead to excessive coldness or symptoms that mimic cold-related issues. Be sure to treat your furry friend as noted by your veterinarian before taking any additional steps, if there are known health issues involved. 

Apply warm compresses — Using pet-safe warm compresses can be helpful, especially in smaller breeds that are more susceptible to cold. Be sure that they are warm and temperate instead of boiling hot, as this can lead to burns and injury. You can remove them once your dog reaches normal body temperature from tip to tail. 

Bring them out of extreme cold — Colder areas of your home can have a cooling effect on your pet’s ears, especially for short-haired breeds. If you live in a place that experiences winter weather, keep your pet in the warmer parts of the home. This is the best option for them anyway, keeping them safe from frigid temperatures, sudden change in temperatures, and rapidly cycling blood pressure to compensate for heat loss. 

Consider canine clothing — Warm clothes, like a dog jacket or sweater, can be a great way to help your pet maintain normal body temperature year-round. There are plenty of cute and cozy options available online. 

When to visit the vet for cold dog ears 

The general rule of thumb is that if your pet is experiencing other symptoms along with cold ears, it’s time to book a visit for the vet. Keep an eye out for gastrointestinal distress, breathing difficulties, lethargy, or appetite loss. It’s also a good idea to keep an eye out for pain or discomfort, which can be shown by sharp yelping or whimpering, limping, and hunching. 

There are many reasons why your dog’s ears are cold, especially in the chilly months. If you’re worried about an underlying condition, monitor your pet for a few days to see if there are any noticeable symptoms besides the cold ears. You can keep your pet comfortable throughout this process, using pet-safe warm compresses and blankets to help them maintain their body temperature. Your vet is always there to be a resource to you and to ensure that there are no other underlying causes for cold dog ears.

Frequently asked questions

How do you know if your dog is cold?

Your pup will generally show signs when they are cold. Some of these include shivering, whimpering, cozying up with their favorite blanket, and tucking their tail in to preserve warmth. 

Is it bad if my pup’s ears are cold?

Not necessarily. But if your dog’s ears are very cold and you see signs of swelling, discoloration, trauma, or other issues, it’s best to have them checked out, especially if you have a puppy or senior dog. Other times to be concerned include if your dog is on certain medications or recovering from surgery.

How can I tell if my dog is cold?

If your pup avoids the outdoors, shivers, or walks more slowly in certain conditions, there’s a good chance they’re cold. Limit outdoor time in extreme weather and consider giving your pup a jacket or protective layer for added warmth.

Why would a dog’s ears be cold?

It could mean nothing or be a sign of a more serious issue. If you’re concerned about your dog’s cold ears, give your vet a call.

Is it normal for dogs’ ears to feel cold?

Yes, it can be. A dog’s paws and ears are furthest from their hearts, meaning they’re the first areas on a pup’s body to get cold.