You probably know your dog so well that you notice the smallest change. It can be a change in behavior or something physical. And unfortunately, many of these changes can be a sign of a health problem.
So, what do you do when you one day scratch your dog’s ears and feel they’re hot to the touch? Should you be concerned?
If you’re wondering why your dog’s ears are hot, I want to try and help with a few clarifications since I faced this exact problem recently. The notes in this article all come from my own vet told me when this happened to my dog.
Why are my dog’s ears hot? Your dog’s ears could be hot due to an ear infection. It could also be due to an ear mite infestation. If in any doubt, always consult with a professional vet for advice.
Please note, I’m not a veterinarian, so if you’re concerned about your pet after reading this article, consult a professional. However, this content based on my research should help you get peace of mind or at least make an informed decision about what steps to take next.
5 reasons for hot ears in dogs
As mentioned, changes in a dog—whether physical or behavioral—can relate to health conditions. In terms of hot ears, here are a few possible causes.
Similar to humans, if there’s an underlying condition in a dog’s body, one of the side effects could be a fever. For example, your dog may have a systemic infection, which causes its body to react, the immune system to be activated and its temperature to rise.
Along with the fever the ears will feel warmer than usual.
The health issue may not be with the dog’s entire body, but purely an ear infection. One possibility is that it has bacteria in the ear canal. This infection can spark higher temperatures since your dog’s immune system will start fighting back.
In some cases, your dog’s ears can get physically damaged. For example, during a fight or its antics in the garden, cartilage can get damaged, resulting in bleeding.
The ear flap will seem more puffy than usual and most likely your dog won’t be happy if you touch it, since it will be somewhat tender and painful.
The temperature of the ears can actually be a good tool to use to monitor your dog’s general health. When your dog’s ears are often hot, but it doesn’t show many other symptoms, it could be part of allergic reactions.
For many dogs, this reaction is because of a food sensitivity. Take note of when the ears seem most irritated and hot. If it’s soon after a meal, it’s possibly the new food you tried.
Or, if the dog is flapping those ears after playing on the grass, the source of the problem is probably environmental. Perhaps it’s allergic to a new type of plant or grass you added to the garden.
5. Ear mites
Even before a proper infection sets in, your dog could have a big problem with ear mites. It can pick them up while on a walk in the park—especially if it’s a grassy or wooded area—or from another dog.
The dust and waste of these mites can cause irritation and it results in the ear producing wax. The irritation will cause your dog to shake its head or scratch the ears, and the inflammation can lead to a rise in ear temperature. Another way you’ll identify this problem is by the bad odor that’s bound to be noticeable.
If your dog’s flea treatments aren’t up to date, there’s an even bigger chance that ear mites could make its ears their new home. Eventually there will be an infection, so get it checked.
Handy Hint: Did you know that dogs can actually catch ear mites from cats? Here’s what you need to look out for.
How warm should my dog’s ears be?
Let’s discuss what temperature your dog’s ears should be as a rule. Your dog’s ears are actually one option to use when taking its temperature for a health checkup.
You may feel a difference in temperature by just touching the ears, but you’ll need a thermometer to really gauge the seriousness of a situation.
You can take a dog’s temperature with a rectal thermometer but there are also ear thermometers. These tend to be expensive though and can be inaccurate if not used correctly. Therefore, it’s often best to leave the task to experts.
If you do know how to use an ear thermometer, if a dog’s ears are between 100°F and 103°F you have no need to worry. Higher than that, it’s best to make a vet appointment.
What to do when your dog’s ears are hot
Reading about infections and fever—even from something as small as an ear mite—is concerning, right?
Luckily, you have more than one way to treat your dog in this situation. And sometimes you don’t even have to visit the vet.
How to reduce a fever
If you realize a fever is present, you can start treating your dog immediately.
According to my vet, you should do the following when your dog’s ears are hot.
Firstly, monitor your dog’s water intake and help it consume more to help manage internal body temperature. You also need to prevent dehydration, so place the water bowl near its bed and coax it to drink regularly.
Also try to lower body temperature by placing a cool cloth on your dog. Wrapping the paws work well and you can place the cool item on the ears itself. By helping your dog deal with one symptom, its body may heal itself faster.
Just note, treating a fever doesn’t solve the source of the problem. It simply treats a symptom. So, if your dog doesn’t get better soon and it seems its body can’t fight the infection effectively, rather go to your local veterinary clinic.
Cleaning your dog’s ears
Perhaps all the dog needs is a good ear cleaning. Your vet can do it and often trusting a professional is the best option. A dog’s ears are very sensitive, and you don’t want to accidentally harm them by poking it or pouring something down the ear canal.
Importantly, you shouldn’t just pour anything down your dog’s ear canal, so don’t follow just any home remedy advice your friends give you. For example, certain liquids can cause permanent damage to a dog’s hearing if it flows where it shouldn’t. So, consult your vet before taking this course of action.
However, it’s often safe to flush a dog’s ear with something like saline solution or a natural ear flush product. You can also use natural products more towards the outside of the ear with surprising results:
- Place some aloe vera on cotton wool and apply it to the ear area furthest from the ear canal.
- You can warm up almond oil, apply a little to the dog’s ear and allow it to dissolve some of the buildup, such as the wax or waste caused by ear mites. Just mop up excess oils with cotton wool to limit the amount trickling into the ear. Then massage the ears to work the oil into the relevant areas you aim to clean.
- If you use coconut oil instead of almond oil your dog can benefit from its anti-inflammatory properties.
When to visit the vet
You shouldn’t put off the vet visit too long. Usually, if there’s a fever or simply hotter-than-usual ears and there’s no improvement in your dog’s condition after 10 days, make an appointment.
As with anything like this, if you are at all concerned about the possible reasons for why your dog’s ears are hot, you should always seek professional advice. It will be something that will most likely be able to be cleared up quickly with the right advice and treatment.