In an ideal world, we pet, play with and cuddle our dogs many times throughout the day.
Because of this, we get an idea of what’s normal and what’s unusual with their bodies.
This includes their temperature. When a dog feels abnormally cold or hot to the touch, it can set off some alarm bells in the heads of pet parents.
What does it mean when your dog’s ears are hot?
It can be due to several causes, including fever and other dog health conditions that might require a vet’s care.
How do you know when your dog’s hot ears are a cause for alarm versus nothing to worry about?
We’ll cover the most common reasons your dog’s ears are hot, and other things to look out for.
Dog’s Ears are Hot vs Just Warm
Before you start stressing about your dog’s temperature, try to determine if their ears actually feel hot, or just a little warmer than usual.
Dogs have a normal body temperature of around 99 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit.
That’s slightly higher than our typical body temperature, so your dog might feel a little warm to the touch for us humans.
Dog’s ears tend to have a less dense coat.
Some breeds have a very thin coat, to begin with, and the hair on their ears is more like a velvet coating that we all love to pet.
Their fur works well to insulate heat around their bodies, but on their head or paws, where there is less hair, their body heat can radiate more noticeably.
There are also a few other things that can make your dog’s ears seem unusually warm.
Warm weather and exposure to the sun can cause dogs to feel extra warm to the touch.
This is especially true for darker-coated dogs since their coats absorb the energy in UV rays as opposed to reflecting them.
It’s down to science:
Think about those blistering hot black car seats after they’ve been in the July sun for just a few minutes.
Dogs should not be exposed to hot weather or direct sunlight for long periods, and most pet parents are diligent about avoiding heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
In intense heat, your dog still might feel overly warm after just a short trip to the bathroom.
Be prepared for it:
Shade, fans or air conditioning, and plenty of water usually gets their temperature feeling normal within a few minutes.
Any kind of moderate to heavy exercise is enough to get the blood flowing.
As such, your dog’s extremities, head, and ears might feel extra warm.
You may even notice the blood vessels in your dog’s ears are more visible than normal.
Here’s some good news:
If your dog is bouncing around and playing, the cause of their warm ears probably isn’t a fever. Feverish dogs aren’t too interested in playtime.
More on that soon.
If your dog’s ears are warm after a long walk, run, or game of tug, they should feel back to normal after the dog has settled down.
Sorry, fellow humans, but dogs are better at keeping their bodies warmer than we are.
It could be you!
At one time or another, we’ve all experienced some clammy, cold skin.
It can be from an illness, or it can be something we’re plagued by due to cold, dry winter air.
So keep it in mind:
We know it’s easy to jump to conclusions about your pet’s health – especially if something seems different. After all, they’re our family, and their health is important.
However, before you get anxious about your dog’s warm ears, take a step back and make sure your hands aren’t unusually cold.
If they are, your dog’s ears might feel relatively hot, but in reality, your dog is fine.
It can be very difficult to make an educated guess about your dog’s temperature if your own temperature isn’t normal.
Ask yourself this: Do your dog’s ear feel cold sometimes, depending on how you feel?
No, we’re not talking about the urge to go adopt a new pet.
We’re talking about dogs running a temperature, which can happen as easily as it can happen to us.
They get sick too:
Dogs are prone to colds, similar to the ailment that strikes people from time to time.
There are also a lot of canine-specific infections that can cause a fever, such as bordetella.
If your dog’s ears feel unusually warm or downright hot to the touch, it could be because they have a fever.
What else should you look out for?
Imagine how you feel when you’re running a temperature. The last thing you want to do is any sort of physical activity.
The same goes for feverish dogs.
They will likely act lethargic, eat less and lay around, devoid of energy, and disinterested in normal routines and even beloved toys.
A dog with a temperature might also have a runny nose or a dry, warm nose, a dry-heave cough, or bloodshot eyes.
They could also vomit, refuse food, and shiver.
If you’re worried about your dog possibly running a fever, you can take their temperature at home – but it can be some unpleasant business to do so.
In that case, get some professional help!
If you’re not comfortable checking yourself, a trip to the vet will help get to the bottom of your dog’s fever.
Geez, who would’ve thought a dog’s ears feeling hot could actually lead to all this? It’s good to cover the bases!
When Is a Fever an Emergency?
Unless you check your dog’s temperature at home, you can’t be sure how high it’s running.
Any time your dog displays symptoms of illness, it’s better to have them evaluated by a vet, so any medications or treatments can be administered.
There are some cases when a possible fever warrants a swift trip to the vet.
If you have any reason to believe your dog ingested something toxic, they should go to the vet ASAP.
Sometimes, we don’t realize our dog has eaten something toxic until well after the fact.
So if there is any chance your suddenly feverish dog got into something dangerous, get them to the vet immediately.
Don’t hesitate here:
Toxic substances can come from actual poisons used for pest control, household plants, xylitol in some gums (if your dog ate gum) and toothpaste, and foods that are dangerous for dogs.
We recommend that if you have a dog who becomes feverish, feeling warmer to the touch in addition to having hot ears, for unknown reasons check your house for any evidence that your dog ate something bad for them.
If your dog has taken a fall, been in a fight, or otherwise experienced any physical trauma, a fever can indicate something serious.
They could have internal bleeding or swelling of the brain – an emergency vet trip is in order.
Bites and Stings
Bites from venomous snakes, spiders, and stings from insects can cause severe reactions in dogs.
If you know your dog was bitten by a venomous snake, they need to be taken to a vet – don’t wait for symptoms to appear.
If your dog was stung by a bee or wasp, it’s wise to call the vet for further advice.
They might advise you to administer an antihistamine, or they could suggest you bring your dog in based on other symptoms they might display.
When to move fast?
A dog who is struggling to breathe after being stung is likely experiencing anaphylactic shock and should be taken to the vet quickly.
Obviously in scary cases like these, there are much bigger things going on besides your dog having hot ears.
When Is a Fever Not an Emergency?
Again, it will be difficult to accurately monitor your dog’s temperature by feeling them.
You should keep an eye on the fever if you’re planning on waiting to take them to the vet.
Don’t take the risk:
If you have no way to monitor them, it’s better to err on the side of caution and get them to the vet sooner rather than later.
Some illnesses can cause temperatures to skyrocket in a short amount of time, which can be fatal.
However, a temperature that is low-grade and not climbing isn’t necessarily cause for alarm.
In this case, you can probably wait for that vet appointment in the morning before whisking your dog off in the middle of the night.
Also, note that sometimes vaccinations cause a low fever in puppies and dogs.
This is rarely a concern and is due to the antibodies in the injection reacting with your dog’s immune system.
Fevers from vaccinations usually go away in 2-3 days.
Your dog could have hot ears because something is bugging them, but not necessarily something that could cause a fever.
Dogs can experience ear infections, allergies, and irritation inside their ears.
Each of these things has the capability to cause inflammation – and inflammation can turn up the temperature in their ears.
A dog with hot ears could be suffering from an infection.
You might notice only one ear is hot, but the infection can occur in both ears simultaneously.
Ear infections in dogs can be a result of many things, from excess moisture, yeast and ear mites, to foreign objects.
They should be treated by a vet and could require antibiotics.
If your pup has a love for getting in the water, it could put them at a higher risk for an ear infection.
Water trapped in the ear can be prime breeding grounds for infection-causing bacteria.
Gently blotting your dog’s ears dry after swimming or bathing can help reduce the risk of infection.
Dog’s ears – especially folded or droopy-type ears – are usually good at keeping out unwanted debris.
However, the design isn’t foolproof.
On occasion, things like plants can wedge themselves into your dog’s ear and cause an infection.
Dogs with erect ears are at a higher risk of having a foreign object becoming lodged in their ear since the ears are more “open.”
Any dog that spends time outdoors should have their ears checked frequently for things that don’t belong there.
Too Much Wax
Some dogs might suffer from an overproduction of wax or sebum in their ears. This buildup can spark an infection.
Keep on top of this.
All dogs need regular ear cleaning to avoid buildup, but dogs who overproduce wax will need more frequent cleanings.
Your dog’s hot ears could be a result of inflammation, but not necessarily an infection.
Allergic responses to grass, other flora, molds, or even food can cause inflammation of the ear.
If your dog is shaking their head and scratching their ears often, their itchy ears could indicate inflammation from allergies.
There are medicated sprays that can help relieve symptoms. You might also need to adjust your dog’s diet or living environment.
Check with an expert:
A vet can help you determine the cause of your dog’s allergies and thus find the best solution.
This goes back to that buildup in the ears we already mentioned – dirty ears can cause inflammation before an infection strikes.
Wet ears can also become inflamed without becoming infected.
Drying your dog’s ears any time they get wet can help prevent inflammation. So can regular cleaning of the outer ear canal.
Signs to Look Out For
If you suspect your dog has inflamed or infected ears, there are some things to watch for aside from hot ears.
Dogs with itchy, inflamed ears might dig at them with their back paws – to the point they hurt themselves.
Dog toenails and ear canals don’t mix, but they’re just trying to get some relief from a deep, pesky itch.
You might also notice your dog is trying to drag their head on everything from the walls to you. They’re just trying to scratch that itch that they can’t quite reach.
Dogs might shake their heads – repeatedly – to try to relieve the itch or discomfort in the ear.
It’s similar to the fully-body shake they like to do when they’re wet, but they only shake their head to flop their ears.
An infected, hot ear might have a foul or unusual smell.
Hot Ears in Dogs
Why are my dogs ears hot, you ask?
If they are actually hot and not just warm from playing, or the weather, they could be running a fever.
Feverish dogs should be evaluated by a vet.
A dog with an ear infection could also have hot ears and need a vet’s diagnosis in that situation as well.
Or, they could simply have inflammation, which needs some attention – often, inflammation has easy solutions that you can handle yourself.