Other health problems

My Dog's Ears Are Cold

Laura García Ortiz
By Laura García Ortiz, Veterinarian specialized in feline medicine. Updated: February 28, 2024
My Dog's Ears Are Cold

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Our dog's ears act as an indicator of their well-being. As part of their canine body language, their position can tell us if they are angry, relaxed or in any particular mood. However, our dog's ears can also indicate something about their physical health. If they are warm, they might be telling us something the dog has been near a heat source, or even indicate fever, infection or other health problems. If a dog's ears are cold, it could also be due to temperature, as well as other problems.

At AnimalWised, we look at why my dog's ears are cold. We understand the reasons behind this issue, find out if they are a symptom of a pathology and what we might need to do about it.

  1. Why do a dog's ears change temperature?
  2. Can we tell a dog's internal temperature from their ears?
  3. Symptoms of hypothermia and cold ears in dogs
  4. How to treat cold ears in dogs

Why do a dog's ears change temperature?

A dog's ears have many blood vessels, the temperature of which is linked to blood circulation. They are a heat-sensitive area which can vary greatly dependent on different factors. These include the ambient temperature and the amount of hair which covers them. Generally, a dog's ears are at a lower temperature than the rest of the dog's body. However, this does not usually indicate the dog has a health problem.

Causes of hot ears in dogs

There are various reasons why a dog changes temperature, whether it is lower or raised. When a dog has warm ears, it could be due to:

  • Fever
  • Infection
  • Inflammation
  • Poisoning
  • High temperatures
  • Heat stroke
  • Being near a heat source
  • Agitation after strenuous exercise

There are various symptoms which can help us identify ear problems in dogs. One such symptom can be seen when the dog has one floppy ear, but the other is still erect.

Causes of cold ears in dogs

A lower temperature can also indicate health problems, something which may be due to:

  • Low ambient temperature
  • Cold air stream
  • Wet fur or skin
  • Sleeping outside in winter
  • Walking in cold weather
  • Snows when they are outside
  • Hypothyroidism reducing metabolism and the ability to thermoregulate
  • Hypotension (due to drugs, poisoning, allergic reactions, etc.)
  • Prolonged anesthesia
  • Hypovolemic shock due to blood loss, trauma, internal bleeding, surgery, etc.
  • Concussion

As you can see, there are various reasons why your dog's ears are cold, some more serious than others. However, in any case where their body temperature drops too low, it causes the risk of hypothermia in the dog. Dogs which are more likely to develop hypothermia due to low temperatures include small dog breeds, dog breeds with little or no hair, puppies or senior dogs. This is either due to an inability to properly thermoregulate their body or because they have insufficient covering to protect themselves from cold temperatures.

My Dog's Ears Are Cold - Why do a dog's ears change temperature?

Can we tell a dog's internal temperature from their ears?

As a dog's ears are part of their extremities, they are more susceptible to changes in ambient temperature. For this reason, they are poor indicators of whether the dog has a normal body temperature or is suffering from either hypothermia or hyperthermia. If we want to take a dog's temperature, an accurate reading can be best achieved by inserting a thermometer into the dog's rectal mucosa.

The normal body temperature of an adult dog is between 38 and 39 ºC (100.4 ºF - 102.2 ºF). If their temperature drops below 35 ºC (95 ºF) symptoms of hypothermia may appear. Hypothermia is evidently present if their body temperature drops below 32 ºC (89.6 ºF). If their temperature drops below 28 ºC (82.4 ºF), their life is in grave danger and it can be very difficult to return them to the correct temperature.

Cold temperatures can also increase the risk of developing certain infections, such as kennel cough or other respiratory diseases.

Symptoms of hypothermia and cold ears in dogs

One of the first symptoms of hypothermia in dogs can be seen by having cold ears. This can be accompanied by some combination of the following symptoms:

  • Muscular stiffness
  • Cramps
  • Tremors
  • Dry Skin
  • Bradypnea (slow breathing)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Clumsiness
  • Lethargy
  • Slow movements
  • Drowsiness

If intervention is not carried out quickly, the hypothermia will progress and threaten the dog's health. The dog's glucose levels will drop as they are used to try to regulate the dog's body temperature. Dogs which have severe hypothermia will start to develop the following clinical symptoms:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Bradycardia (slow heart beat)
  • Anorexia
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Disorientation
  • Depression
  • Stare.
  • Mydriasis (dilated pupils)
  • Fainting
  • Collapse
  • Sudden death

In cases where the dog suffers an internal or external traumatic injury, they can lose a significant amount of blood. When the blood loss is rapid and reaches a certain point, they can go into hypovolemic shock. The result is that the heart is unable to pump sufficient amounts of blood around the body. When the dog has hypothermia, acidosis (high acid levels), hypotension (low blood pressure), bradycardia and coagulopathy (inability to clot blood) while mean the dog will most likely die.

Such accidents can be caused by road collisions, falling from height, surgeries, tumors, ruptured organs or severe conditions such as gastric torsion. All of these may result in the dog's ears being cold, but more obvious symptoms may present first. They are all considered emergencies and will require veterinary intervention.

My Dog's Ears Are Cold - Symptoms of hypothermia and cold ears in dogs

How to treat cold ears in dogs

As we have seen, a dog with cold ears can indicate various pathologies and medical conditions. As the dog's temperature drops, so too does their blood pressure and heart rate. This can cause arrhythmias, poor circulation and even cardiac arrest. Blood oxygen levels will also be reduced, metabolism slows down and it can lead to multi-organ dysfunction syndrome (MODS).

When our dog's ears become cold due to a drop in body temperature or hypothermia, we should carry out the following:

  • Maintain a suitable environment to increase the temperature gradually, with lamps, electrical appliances or heating.
  • We should not try to increase their body temperature rapidly as it will cause their body to go into shock.
  • If the dog is wet, they should be dried immediately.
  • Shelter them with blankets and coats. if they are small, take them in your arms to share our body heat.
  • If they are cold, you should try to take the dog out in the warmest hours of the day. Keep them warm and avoid sleeping outside.
  • A veterinarian may administer fluid therapies or even warm enemas.
  • Glucose may be given to prevent or reverse hypoglycemia.

Ideally, the dog should be taken to the veterinarian before the appearance of the aforementioned symptoms. If you notice their ears have turned cold, you should take a temperature reading. If their temperature has dropped, they will need to be taken to the vet for diagnosis.

Since many of these problems are due to lower temperatures, we need to be careful when the seasons change and the temperature drops. Our article on whether it is best to dress dogs in winter will help you to understand the need for protecting our canines in cold weather.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to My Dog's Ears Are Cold, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.

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My Dog's Ears Are Cold