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canine health problems
Brown dog with pointy ears

📷 by Mitchell Orr

Your dog’s nose is a good indicator of how they feel. But did you know your pup’s ears can also send you signals when they’re unwell? Doggie ears are often warm, but if they’re too hot to the touch, something may be wrong. Below are some of the top reasons your dog’s ears may be hot and what you can do to help.

5 possible causes for your dog’s hot ears

1. Ear Infections

Both bacterial and yeast ear infections could cause a dog’s ears to be hot. You might notice 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
  • A mass in the ear canal (for example, a polyp) that can trap moisture and result in an infection
  • A build-up of wax

👉 If your dog has sensitive ears or swims often, it’s recommended to clean their ears with a non-irritating dog ear cleaning solution.

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 only 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 indulge them) 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 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.

👉 These can happen to any dog, but it seems dogs with floppy ears are more at risk. 

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 mentioned 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

DVM

4. Ear mites

An ear mite infestation could be the culprit of your dog’s hot ears. These pesky critters can infect both dogs’ and cats’ ear canals and cause irritating symptoms like relentless scratching and head shaking.

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 dog 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 short-nosed breeds, like 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 ice packs, fans, cold water, and ice cubes to keep your dog cool on hot days.

How warm should your pup’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 fever 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

Tips to keep your dog’s ears squeaky clean

Cleaning your dog’s ears is an integral part of their regular grooming. Some dogs need more frequent cleanings, for example, if they have sensitive ears, allergies, or swim often. The best way to clean your dog’s ears is by using a quality ear cleaner.

One ear cleaner recommended by our staff vets is Virbac’s Epi-Otic Advanced Cleaner. This ear cleaner has a low pH and non-irritating ingredients, making it an excellent choice for sensitive ears. When looking for a quality dog ear cleaner, make sure to avoid ones with hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can cause further irritation.

👉 Here’s our step-by-step guide on how to safely clean Fido’s delicate ears.

Frequently asked questions 

Are my dog’s ears supposed to be hot or warm?

Dog ears are naturally warm since their normal body temperature runs between 99.5-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit, but they shouldn’t feel hot. If your dog’s ears feel warmer than usual, it’s best to take their temperature to see if they’re running a fever and keep an eye out for additional symptoms. When in doubt or if your dog is running a fever, give your vet a call to discuss the next steps.

How can I tell if my dog has a fever without a thermometer?

You’ll need a thermometer to get an accurate temperature. If you don’t have a dog-specific thermometer,  you can use a quick reading human one, but make sure not to use it on humans afterward.

Is it normal for dogs to feel hot?

Dogs can be hot for many reasons, including being overheated, exercising, and running a fever. Since dogs do not have many sweat glands, they pant to regulate their temperatures when hot. Keep an eye on your dog if they are feeling hot or start showing more symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, heavy panting, or increased salivation, and call your vet immediately.