Dogs love ear rubs, which means most of us are handling their ears pretty often! We get to know what they feel like and what temperature is normal—which is actually an amazing thing. It allows us to notice when their ears are too hot.
In this article, we’ll go over each cause of hot ears in dogs, discuss other symptoms to watch for, and how to help your dog feel better. We’ll also talk about when to bring your dog to the vet.
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Hot ears can indicate a fever in dogs. If your dog is running a fever, you may notice other symptoms such as changes in behavior, appetite, or energy level. Your dog might vomit or have diarrhea.
Another indication is if your dog is sleeping more than usual or shivering. Like us, they might feel cold despite their raised temperature.
The only way to know for sure if your dog is running a fever is to take their temperature, or have your veterinarian do so. A dog’s normal body temperature is 101°-102.5° Fahrenheit.
If your dog’s temperature is over 103° F, they have a fever. A temperature of 106° F or higher can bring serious complications or even death.
Fever can be caused by various infections, viruses, and other ailments such as heat stroke. Only a veterinarian can diagnose your dog’s condition and provide treatment to lower their fever.
If your dog is running a low fever, call your veterinarian and have them seen as soon as possible. If they’re over that danger point of 106° F, call your nearest emergency veterinary hospital to have them seen right away.
In the meantime, keep your dog as cool as possible by keeping them in an air conditioned room or car, or placing them near a fan. Run towels under cool water and place them on your dog’s ears and paws, replacing them as needed.
Continue to take your dog’s temperature so that you’ll know if it raises or lowers.
Do not use ice, as this might actually interfere with your dog’s blood flow and their body’s ability to cool itself.
Don’t medicate your dog yourself, especially not with human medications as many are toxic to dogs. In addition, even medications made for dogs can interfere with treatment when you do get your dog to the vet.
2. Ear Infection
Another cause for fever is an ear infection. Ear infections can also cause your dog’s ears to be hot on their own.
Symptoms and Treatment
Alongside hot ears, other symptoms of an ear infection include:
- Itchy ears
- Shaking or tilting the head
- Redness or discoloration of the ear
- Excessive ear wax or abnormal discharge
- A yeast-like odor
Unfortunately, there are no home remedies for ear infections. Your pup will need to be seen by a veterinarian.
They will look into your dog’s ears and determine what is causing the infection, then choose the right medication to treat it.
Your vet can also tell you if something is causing the infection, such as ear mites or a wound in the ear, or if the infection has progressed to the point of damaging the ear.
Causes of Ear Infections
- Water in the ears
- Wax build-up
- A mass in the ear
- A wound in the ear
- Underlying health conditions
Breed can also be a factor. For instance, dogs with long, floppy ears are more prone to ear infections. So are water-loving breeds such as Labradors.
3. Ear Mites
As stated above, ear mites can lead to an ear infection for dogs. They’re also very irritating to your dog, making their ears itch terribly. This itching can cause more damage than the mites themselves.
Symptoms of Ear Mites
Symptoms of ear mites include:
- Dark discharge from the ears that’s said to resemble coffee grounds
- Wounds in the ear from scratching
- Redness and inflammation
- Ear infection
If the ear mites are severe, they might begin to infest other areas of your dog’s body as well.
Treating Ear Mites
The best way to treat your dog is to bring them to a veterinarian. They can diagnose ear mites and rule out other ailments. Your vet will also treat any secondary conditions, such as wounds in your dog’s ears from scratching or ear infection.
The treatment for mites is parasite preventative. If your dog is already on one of these, check if it controls ear mites—this can help you to rule them out as a cause for their hot ears.
If not, you can purchase one over the counter or have your veterinarian prescribe one for your dog and any other pets in the household. Typically, it’s best to get these medications from your vet as some over-the-counter medications aren’t as effective or don’t treat ear mites.
If your dog has ear mites, assume your other pets do as well.
Failing to treat all of your pets can lead to the mites spreading again and again. For instance, you might treat your dog only for them to catch the mites again from your untreated cat. When you treat the cat next, they might re-catch the mites from your dog.
Treating both at once, in this instance, would mean that neither could pass the mites back to the other after treatment.
4. Heat Stroke
Heat stroke, also known as hyperthermia, is another way of saying a dog has a fever. However, heat stroke usually refers to fever caused by the dog’s surroundings. For instance, a common cause of heat stroke is when a dog is left in a hot car.
Causes of Heat Stroke
It doesn’t take neglect for your dog to develop heat stroke. Other risk factors include:
- A brachycephalic, or short, snout
- Size of the dog—large breeds are more prone to heat stroke
- Excess weight
- Intense exercise on hot days
- Outdoor temperatures of over
- Having little or no access to water
A hair dryer on a hot setting can also cause heat stroke if used for too long, as can keeping your dog in a poorly-ventilated space such as a covered crate or carrier. Muzzles can also increase risk if they restrict your dog’s ability to pant.
High-risk dogs can develop heat stroke even when it doesn’t seem hot outside. If your dog is brachycephalic, or has a short snout, it’s important to know that they’ll have a decreased exercise and heat tolerance, alongside other potential health problems.
Most brachycephalic dogs do best when kept indoors during hot days, or just going outside to potty rather than for a walk.
Symptoms and Treatment
Heat stroke in dogs is an emergency. If you notice symptoms, rush your dog to the closest emergency veterinary clinic.
Even heat stroke that seems mild from the outside can lead to long-term symptoms, and catching it early is your best bet at keeping your dog healthy.
Symptoms of heat stroke include:
- Excessive panting
- Dry or sticky gums
- Pale or blue-tinged gums
- Organ failure
Treatment will depend on the severity of your dog’s heat stroke, including how long they’ve been feverish and how high their fever is. A dog in the early stages has a better prognosis than one who’s gone into organ failure, and will also require less intensive treatment at the vet.
Lastly, your dog’s ear might be hot due to injury. This most often occurs when a dog itches their ears too much and cuts them open with their claws.
Ear injuries can also happen as a result of dog fights, abuse, or accidental injury. If your dog has long fur on the ears, brushing them too roughly can cause injury as this area is very sensitive.
Your dog can also rupture a blood vessel through excessive head shaking. This typically happens when your dog has another irritant, such as allergies, an ear infection, or ear mites.
Injuries most often become hot due to infection, so it’s important to bring your dog to the veterinarian for treatment. They may also be able to determine what caused the injury if you’re unsure, and treat any underlying conditions.
Your vet will likely look inside of your dog’s ear to see the injury, clean it thoroughly, and then treat any infections or underlying disease.
Should my Dog See a Vet?
When in doubt, I always recommend seeing a veterinarian. It’s better to feel a little silly or overreact to a symptom, than it is to ignore a serious ailment and leave your dog in pain!
If you’re on the fence, though, here are some tips:
- Always bring your dog to the veterinarian if they have a fever.
- If your dog’s ears are red, swollen, smelly, or oozing pus, see a veterinarian—this likely indicates an infection.
- Many flea and tick preventatives also kill ear mites. If your dog is on one, you may be able to rule mites out as a reason for their hot ears.
- Alternatively, purchasing an over-the-counter flea medication can get rid of mites, saving you a trip to the vet.
- Heat stroke is very serious in dogs—if you spot it, get your dog to a cool place quickly and call your nearest emergency veterinary clinic.
How to Prevent Hot Ears in Dogs
You can’t always prevent hot ears in your dog. Some individuals or breeds are predisposed to ear problems, but there are ways to keep the ears as healthy as possible. These include:
- Clean your dog’s ears once monthly, or as recommended by your veterinarian. I personally use an ear wash solution made for dogs on a paper towel, but you can also use cotton pads, cotton balls, or q-tips.
Never try to clean the inside of your dog’s ear canal yourself or insert a q-tip inside—only clean the outer ear.
- Keep your dog on parasite prevention medication to prevent ear mites.
- Wipe your dog’s ears dry after baths and other activities that involve water, such as swimming or playing in the sprinkler.
- Check your dog’s ears regularly for redness, swelling, or abnormal discharge. This can help to catch health problems early, before they get out of hand.