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Dog with big pointy ears

While your dog’s nose is often the first thing we check to gauge their health, did you know that your furry friend’s ears can also serve as a telling sign of their well-being? Just like humans, dogs experience changes in body temperature when they’re not feeling their best. It’s natural for your pup’s ears to feel warm, but if you ever find them unusually hot, it could signal a number of different underlying issues.

Hot ears may be a sign of common canine conditions, such as food allergies, an ear infection, or tiny bugs called ear mites. Or it could be a sign of something more acute like fever, heatstroke, or an injury. Let’s explore some of the common reasons why your dog’s ears might be hotter than usual and how you can lend a paw in times of need.

Potential causes for your dog’s hot ears

1. Ear infections

Ear infections due to an overgrowth of bacteria and/or yeast could cause a dog’s ears to be hot. You might notice a head tilt to only one side, your pet shaking their head, or scratching at their ears more than normal. If there’s redness, inflammation, or an odor coming from their ear canal, you’ll want to contact your veterinarian to check for an ear infection.

Other common causes of ear infections include:

  • Excess water trapped in the ear canal
  • Food or environmental allergies
  • Underlying health conditions like hypothyroidism
  • Foreign material or a mass in the ear canal (for example, a polyp) that can trap moisture and result in an infection
  • A build-up of wax

2. Your dog is running a fever

Another reason your dog’s ears may be hot is they have a high fever. Fevers result from an underlying illness, like infections. Besides a fever, other symptoms may include fatigue, vomiting, shivering, and loss of appetite.

The best way to get an accurate read on your dog’s temperature is to use a digital thermometer rectally with lubricant. However, our veterinary advisor, Dr. Michelle Diener, recommends having your local vet take your dog’s temperature for safety precautions.

If your dog is running a fever, you’ll need to contact your vet immediately. To help lower your pet’s fever and make them more comfortable, have them drink cool water (if they’re a fan of ice cubes, now is a perfect time to offer some for them to crunch on) and try using a cool compress around their paws and ears.

3. Injury

A recent injury to your dog’s head or ears may also be the cause of their hot ears. Extreme itching or head shaking are two common causes of ear injuries. An ear injury can sometimes lead to an infection if left untreated, and even an ear hematoma.

When a dog has an ear infection, the ears are often painful which causes dogs to shake their head frequently due to the discomfort. When a dog shakes their head frequently or violently, a blood vessel within the ear flap can rupture and cause part or all of the ear flap to fill up with blood. Due to the extra blood flow within the ear flap, the ear can feel hot to the touch.

👉 Ear hematomas can happen to any dog, but breeds with long, floppy ears may be more susceptible than others. 

Call your vet immediately if you notice your dog has an ear hematoma to get started on a treatment plan as soon as possible. Dr. Diener mentions that historically, vets used to treat ear hematomas by surgery, but treatment options have become less invasive.

Now, ear hematomas can be treated conservatively by clearing up the ear infection and by taking a tapering course of oral steroids.

Dr. Michelle Diener


4. Ear mites

An ear mite infestation could be the culprit of your dog’s hot ears. These small parasites are highly contagious and passed through direct contact with another animal that has them. They cause irritating symptoms like relentless scratching and head shaking.

Ear mites are barely visible to the naked eye. If your dog’s ears are darker in color, you might notice tiny white specks. If you suspect ear mites are the cause of your dog’s ear troubles, schedule an evaluation with your dog’s vet right away. Ear mite infestations can be treated with medication prescribed by the vet.

5. Heatstroke

On summer days, it’s vital that your pup has access to shade and water both inside and outside and to limit exercise to avoid overheating. Never leave your dog in your car unattended, especially on hot days as your dog can overheat and suffer a heat stroke within minutes.

Dogs that are overweight or flat-faced breeds with short noses, like American bulldogs and pugs, can overheat faster. Unlike humans, dogs don’t have a lot of sweat glands, which is why they pant to help cool themselves down. Besides warm ears, other symptoms of overheating are extreme panting, increased drooling, and heavy breathing.

👉 It’s a good idea to have a stash of cold water, ice cubes, or even a fan to keep your dog cool on hot days.

How warm should your dog’s ears be?

Dogs’ normal body temperatures run a little higher than their human companions, usually between 99.5-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit, so your dog’s ears should feel warm to you. Sometimes, though, their ears might feel warmer than usual, so the best way to tell if your dog is running a fever is to take their temperature.

You can check to see if your dog has a fever by taking a rectal temperature using a digital thermometer with lubricant. Rectal thermometers give the best results, but a quality digital thermometer is your next best bet.

🚨If your dog’s temperature is above 104 degrees Fahrenheit, get them to an emergency vet as soon as possible.

When should you take your dog to the vet?

You should always take your dog to the vet if they have a fever over 104 degrees Fahrenheit. If their temperature is over 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit and showing other symptoms, it’s best to give your vet a call to check if they need to be seen.

Other signs that your dog needs immediate vet attention include:

  • Repeated vomiting
  • Constant itching or scratching
  • Extreme lethargy
  • Dehydration
  • Decreased appetite
  • Seizures

Frequently asked questions 

Why does my dog feel hot when he shakes his head?

When a dog shakes its head, it’s often because something is bothering their ears. The heat you’re feeling could be due to inflammation or infection in the ear canal. Your dog’s body increases blood flow to the affected area to fight off potential problems, which can result in the area feeling warmer than usual.

What causes ear problems in dogs?

Several factors can cause ear problems in dogs. Allergic reactions to food, dust, pollen, or mold can cause itchy, inflamed ears. Other causes include parasites, like ear mites, yeast or bacteria infections which can develop if the dog’s ears are not cleaned regularly, trauma from scratching or pawing at itchy ears, and otitis externa. Otitis externa is an inflammation of the outer ear that can be acute or chronic, and symptoms include head shaking, redness around the outer ear, bad odor, swelling, and pain.  These include:

What is the normal temperature for a dog’s ears?

The normal body temperature for dogs typically ranges between 99.5 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit (37.5 to 39.2 degrees Celsius). While a rectal thermometer is considered the more reliable way to check your dog’s temperature, an accurate reading can be measured via the ears if done properly. You need to probe a little deeper into the ear canal. Exercise caution using this method as pups in pain may wince. If you’re concerned about your dog’s temperature and want to ensure the most accurate measurement, it’s best to consult with a veterinarian.

Do warm ears mean fever in dogs?

While warm ears might indicate a fever in dogs, it’s not a surefire sign. A dog’s ears naturally fluctuate in temperature due to various factors like the weather, physical activity, or their emotional state. If you suspect your dog has a fever, look for other symptoms like loss of appetite, lethargy, coughing, or vomiting. The most accurate way to check for fever in dogs is by taking a rectal temperature reading. If your dog has a high temperature – above 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit (39.2 degrees Celsius) – it’s best to consult a veterinarian.