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Why Are My Dog’s Ears Hot? Exploring the Causes and Solutions

Why Are My Dogs Ears Hot

If you’re wondering, ‘Why Are My Dog’s Ears Hot?’ then it may be a major cause for concern. Dogs’ ears are essential organs for body temperature regulation. So, when your dog’s ears feel unusually warm, it could indicate something is wrong. Some of the more severe causes are more easily treated when caught early.

It is essential to take preventative care. You need to keep your dog’s ears clean to avoid infections. But, before taking action, you must know how to distinguish between ordinary and potentially alarming temperatures. You must also familiarize yourself with the most common reasons your dog’s ears are hot.

To better understand why a dog’s ears get hot, we consulted our expert source, “Atlas of Ear Diseases in the Dog and Cat,” by Sue Paterson & Karen Tobias. So let’s dive in.

14 Reasons Your Dog’s Ear May Be Hot

14 Reasons Your Dog's Ear May Be Hot

1. Fever

A healthy temperature range for dogs is typically between 38°C and 39.2°C (100.4°F and 102.5°F) when measured rectally with a thermometer. A dog is considered to have a fever when its temperature exceeds 39.2°C (102.5°F). The first place you may feel this fever is by touching your dog’s ear flaps, just like you may put your hand on a person’s forehead to feel for a fever.

When a dog experiences a fever, it can lead to an increase in body temperature. Fever is typically a response to an underlying infection, inflammation, or other physiological disturbances.

The rise in body temperature affects the overall circulation of blood in the body. That includes the blood vessels present in the ears.

As the dog’s body temperature elevates, the blood vessels in the ears dilate or expand. This dilation allows for increased blood flow to the ears. In turn, it can make them noticeably warmer to the touch.

Increased blood flow to the ears helps dissipate excess heat from the body. Thereby, it aids in regulating the dog’s overall temperature.

2. Inflammation

When inflammation occurs in a dog’s ear, it triggers a series of biological responses that can make the ear feel hot. It involves a complex cascade of immune cells, chemicals, and increased blood flow to the affected area.

In the case of an inflamed ear, the blood vessels near the site of inflammation dilate, allowing more blood to flow into the area. You may see signs like redness, swelling, and heat when a dog’s ears are inflamed.

One possible cause of inflammation in puppy ears is canine juvenile cellulitis, which can cause swelling, redness, and even pus in puppy’s ears under the age of 4 months. Dachshunds, Golden Retrievers, and Gordon Setters are most at risk.

3. Parasites

Parasites can contribute to a dog’s ear feeling hot through their feeding and reproductive activities, triggering an inflammatory response in the ear tissue.

Different parasites, such as ear mites, ticks, or fleas, may infest a dog’s ear. Their presence causes irritation, discomfort, and subsequent inflammation.

When parasites infect the ear, they often bite, feed on blood, or burrow into the skin, leading to tissue damage and irritation. These actions can elicit an immune response from the dog’s body, resulting in inflammation.

The increased blood flow to the affected area during the inflammatory response can make the ear feel warm or hot to the touch—the combination of tissue damage, immune response, and increased blood circulation results in localized heat generation.

Moreover, some parasites may release additional substances into the ear, such as toxins or saliva. These excretions can further trigger inflammation and contribute to the sensation of heat.

4. Insect Bites

An insect bite in a dog’s ear from a mosquito, fly, or gnat can lead to localized reactions that result in the ear feeling hot. Insect bites introduce foreign substances, such as saliva or venom, into the dog’s skin.

When an insect bites the dog’s ear, it pierces the skin and releases saliva or venom as part of its feeding or defense mechanism. The dog’s immune system recognizes these foreign substances as potential threats and responds by releasing inflammatory chemicals to counteract them. 

An insect bite is usually localized, like a bee sting.

5. Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is a severe condition when a dog’s body temperature rises dangerously high. It is often due to prolonged exposure to high temperatures, overexertion, or inadequate ventilation.

During heat stroke, a dog’s body struggles to dissipate heat effectively, leading to various physiological changes, including hot ears.

When a dog experiences heat stroke, their body tries to cool down through vasodilation, which involves expanding the blood vessels near the skin’s surface. This dilation allows increased blood flow to the skin and extremities, including the ears, to release heat.

As the blood vessels in the ears dilate, more warm blood is directed to the area, making the ears feel noticeably hot. This heat results from the increased blood flow and the body’s attempt to release excess heat from the dog’s core.

6. Fungal or Bacterial Infection

When a dog’s ear is affected by a fungal or bacterial infection, it can lead to inflammation and subsequent warmth in the ear. These infections often occur in the external ear canal or surrounding skin.

Fungal (usually a yeast infection) or bacterial infections in the ear typically occur when there is an overgrowth or imbalance of microorganisms that naturally inhabit the ear. Factors such as moisture, allergies, underlying skin conditions, or injuries can create an environment conducive to infection.

With an infection, you should see a lot of discharge from the ear and redness. Your dog’s ears may also be itchy and they may shake their head often.

One very bad infection in the dog ear that causes heat and swelling is an ear or aural hematoma, which you can see in the video below.

7. Wounds and Injuries

Wounds and injuries like bites on a dog’s ears, can lead to localized inflammation and subsequently cause the affected area to feel warm. When the skin on the ears is injured, the body initiates a healing response.

A wound can also often lead to a secondary infection, like a hot spot, which can cause sores and heat in the ears.

8. Allergies

Allergies can contribute to a dog’s ears feeling hot due to the inflammatory response triggered by the immune system. When a dog is exposed to allergens that their body is sensitive to it can lead to an allergic reaction.

During an allergic reaction, the immune system overreacts to these allergens, releasing a cascade of inflammatory chemicals, including histamines. Histamines cause blood vessels near the site of the reaction, including the ears, to dilate or expand.

The increased blood flow to the ears brings immune cells and other components of the immune response to combat the perceived threat posed by the allergens. This immune response generates localized heat, leading to warmer ears.

The inflammatory chemicals released during an allergic reaction can cause itching, redness, and ear swelling. It may also lead to secondary infections like ear infections or otitis.

9. Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is a condition that occurs when a dog’s skin comes into direct contact with an irritating substance or allergen. When contact dermatitis affects a dog’s ears, it can lead to localized inflammation and the sensation of heat in the affected area. The ear flap or pinna may become red and swollen, or develop bumps and a rash.

When the skin of the dog’s ears comes into contact with an irritant or allergen, it triggers an immune response in the body, which may lead to heat.

10. Immune-Mediated Diseases

Immune-related diseases, such as autoimmune disorders or immune-mediated conditions, can contribute to a dog’s ear feeling warm due to the underlying inflammatory processes associated with these conditions. Common autoimmune diseases that can affect the ears include:

  • Pemphigus foliaceus 
  • Pemphigus erythematosus
  • Toxic epidermal necrolysis
  • Vasculitis
  • Some drug reactions

In immune-related diseases, the immune system mistakenly identifies the body’s tissues as foreign or harmful, leading to an abnormal immune response. This immune dysregulation triggers inflammation in various body parts, including the ears.

The inflammatory response causes blood vessels near the affected area, including the ears, to dilate. This dilation allows for increased blood flow to the site of inflammation as the immune system attempts to combat the perceived threat.

The increased blood flow to the ears results in localized heat generation, leading to the sensation of warmth. The warmth is a consequence of the heightened blood circulation and the body’s efforts to address the underlying immune-related condition.

 11. Sebaceous Adenitis

Sebaceous adenitis is a skin disorder that primarily affects the sebaceous glands responsible for producing sebum, which helps moisturize and protect the skin. In the case of sebaceous adenitis, the immune system mistakenly targets and damages these sebaceous glands.

Sebaceous adenitis affecting a dog’s ears can lead to inflammation and subsequent warmth in the affected area. The immune system’s response to the damaged sebaceous glands triggers an inflammatory reaction.

The increased blood flow to the ears results in localized heat generation, leading to the sensation of warmth.

12. Auricular Chondritis

Auricular chondritis is a condition characterized by inflammation and damage to the cartilage of the ear. When a dog’s ear is affected by auricular chondritis, it can lead to localized warmth in the affected area or ear flap.

In auricular chondritis, the immune system mistakenly targets and attacks the cartilage in the ear, leading to inflammation. The immune response triggers the events that increase blood flow to the affected area.

The dilation increases blood flow to the area as part of the body’s immune response. The increased blood flow to the ear results in localized heat generation, leading to the extra warmth.

Moreover, auricular chondritis can cause other symptoms in the affected ear, such as redness, swelling, tenderness, and changes in the shape or structure of the ear.

These symptoms and the warmth reflect the ongoing inflammatory response and the condition’s impact on the dog’s ear cartilage and surrounding tissues.

13. Vasculitis

Vasculitis is a condition characterized by inflammation of the blood vessels. When vasculitis affects a dog’s ear, it can lead to localized warmth in the affected areas.

In vasculitis, the immune system mistakenly attacks and damages the blood vessel walls, resulting in inflammation. Again, the inflammatory response triggers events that can lead to increased blood flow and localized heat.

Additionally, vasculitis can cause other symptoms in the affected ear, such as redness, swelling, tenderness, and changes in the appearance or texture of the skin. These symptoms and the warmth reflect the ongoing inflammatory response and the condition’s impact on the blood vessels and surrounding tissues.

Treatment may involve anti-inflammatory medications, immunosuppressive drugs, or other interventions to reduce inflammation, manage symptoms, and protect the affected blood vessels.

14. Pyoderma

Pyoderma refers to a bacterial skin infection that can affect various parts of a dog’s body, including the ears. When pyoderma affects a dog’s ears, it can lead to localized inflammation and subsequent warmth in the affected area. There are many different kinds of pyoderma, but it usually starts as an injury that becomes infected.

How Hot Should the Inside of a Dog’s Ears Be?

How Hot Should the Inside of a Dog's Ears Be?

The inside of a dog’s ear ranges from 98° to 103 (36.6° to 39.4° Celsius). The temperature should not exceed 103° Fahrenheit (39.4° Celsius). However, a dog’s temperature should be taken rectally, on with their ears to get an accurate reading if their ears are hot and you think they have a fever. The average temperature also depends on your dog’s size and breed, but anything significantly higher is cause for concern. If you are uncertain about a measurement, consult your vet.

Help! My Dog’s Ears Are Hot, But There is No Fever!

When a dog’s ears feel hot, but there is no fever, it could indicate localized inflammation or increased blood flow in the ears. The inflammation is likely causing the effect of heating in the ear.

How Do You Treat Hot Ears in Dogs?

If you are wondering what to do when a dog’s ears are hot, read on as we identify the crucial steps:

Identify the cause

Determine the underlying reason for the hot ears. Common causes include allergies, infections, inflammatory conditions, or environmental factors. If you’re unsure of the cause or if the symptoms persist, it’s best to consult a veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis. This is because many causes of a fever in a dog are deadly, such as viral infections like Parvo.

Keep the dog comfortable

Provide a cool and comfortable environment. Ensure proper ventilation and avoid exposing them to excessive heat or direct sunlight. That can help alleviate discomfort and prevent further overheating.

Gentle cleaning

If there is visible debris or discharge around the ears, gently clean the outer part of the ears using a veterinarian-approved ear-cleaning solution. Avoid inserting anything deep into the ear canal to prevent injury.

Avoid irritants

Identify and avoid potential irritants or allergens causing the hot ears. It could include switching to hypoallergenic bedding, using fragrance-free products, or adjusting the dog’s diet if food allergies are suspected.

Medication

Depending on the underlying cause, your veterinarian may prescribe medications such as antibiotics for infections, anti-inflammatory drugs for inflammation, or antihistamines for allergies.

Follow-up care

Regularly monitor your dog’s ears for any changes or worsening of symptoms. If the hot ears persist or worsen, or your dog shows signs of discomfort, it’s essential to revisit the veterinarian for further evaluation and guidance.

Remember, these are general guidelines.

Does My Dog Have a Fever if Their Ears Are Hot?

No, if a dog’s ears are hot, it does not necessarily mean they have a fever. The temperature of a dog’s ears can vary for many reasons, and it’s essential to understand the distinction between localized warmth and a systemic fever.

Localized ear warmth can occur due to increased blood flow, inflammation, regular physical activity, and excitement response. This localized warmth does not necessarily indicate an elevated body temperature or fever throughout the dog’s body.

On the other hand, a fever is an elevation in body temperature typically caused by an underlying infection, inflammation, or other medical condition.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are my dog’s ears hot and red?

Dogs’ ears may be hot and red for many reasons, including allergies, infections, hematomas, irritants, parasites, or injury and trauma.

Why are my dog’s ears hot at night?

Dogs may experience hotter ears at night due to changes in temperature or humidity. For instance, if your dog sleeps in a warm room or is lying next to a heater, their ears may be hotter. Or, if your dog has an underlying condition like an ear infection, allergies, or inflammation, the symptoms may be more noticeable at night. 

Why Are My Dog’s Ears Warm While They Are Panting?

A dog with warm ears that is panting is showing signs of distress. They may be overheating or have heatstroke. They may also have pain or discomfort from underlying health issues that could be causing a fever.

Final Thoughts

Understanding why a dog’s ears might feel hot is crucial for pet owners to determine if it is normal or a cause for concern. While a dog’s ears naturally run warmer than humans, persistent or excessive heat can indicate an underlying issue.

Various factors can contribute to hot ears in dogs. Fever, inflammation, parasites, insect bites, heat stroke, infections, wounds, allergies, immune-mediated diseases, and other conditions can all play a role. Fever and inflammation often lead to increased blood flow, causing the ears to feel hot. 

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Tamsin De La Harpe

Author

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.

Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

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