5 possible reasons why dog’s ears are hot

Most dogs enjoy having their ears scratched and rubbed. It’s one of their many joys in life. As pet owners, we may feel that our dog’s ears are hot when we scratch or rub them. We tend to jump to conclusions on what could possibly be wrong or chalk it up to being nothing. It’s important to not ignore this symptom and assess what could possibly be the reason behind your dog’s hot ears. The five possible and most common reasons for your dog’s ears being hot are:

  • Infections (viral or bacterial)
  • Parasites (ear mites)
  • Heat stroke (heat exhaustion)
  • Bruising (hematoma)
  • Allergies (seasonal and food)

Please reach out to your vet immediately to have a full physical exam for your dog if he or she has hot ears to take the appropriate next steps for your dog’s medical treatment.

floppy ears on a dog

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How hot is too hot for my dog’s ears?

Dogs naturally have a higher body temperature than us humans. Their body, including their ears, should be slightly warm to the touch. 

You may have a forehead thermometer or ear thermometer at home that you can use on your dog’s ears to help determine if they are too hot. You can find a dog-specific thermometer here. A normal body temperature range for your dog’s temperature should be a little over 100.0 degrees Fahrenheit to 103.0 degrees Fahrenheit. If your thermometer is reading over 103 degrees, please contact your vet immediately as your dog is running a high fever.

In most cases, you are going to notice other symptoms with your dog’s hot ears. The other symptoms might even be the reason you are checking your dog’s ears and temperature. 

5 possible reasons why dog’s ears are hot

1 – Infection (viral or bacterial)

A dog may run a fever when their body is fighting off an infection. Our dogs can’t speak to us with words so it’s hard to know if they are in any discomfort from their fever. This is why it’s important to take note if they are also lethargic, not eating, or acting out of their usual self as well.

An infection could be from many different things, the most common are below. You will also find additional symptoms that may also appear with hot ears. These are not the only symptoms associated with the type of infection but common ones that you as a pet owner can take note of and speak with your vet about.

Urinary Tract infection (UTI)

Other symptoms: Frequent urination or whining/pain when urinating.

organ infection

Other symptoms: Loss of appetite and pale gums.

Infected wounds or bites

Other symptoms: Puss and redness on the area of the bite or wound.

Ingested toxins that are poisonous

Other symptoms: Vomiting and diarrhea.

Bacterial infections in the ear

Other symptoms: Look for redness on your dog’s ear or if they are inflamed or have discharge coming out from them.

Yeast infections

Other symptoms: Most common with dogs who have floppy ears and who may swim often or get their ears wet. The ear may be crusty or look matted.

2 – Parasites (ear mite infestation)

Ear mites are the most common type of parasite that is likely to make your dog’s ear hot. They are tiny and microscopic and live on the surface of your dog’s ear.

These little ear mites can cause a lot of discomfort for our dogs. You might notice that your dog is extremely irritated with their ears and constantly scratching or licking them. It is also possible that you will notice a discharge from the ear.

As noted above, ear mites are microscopic so it’s unlikely that you will actually be able to see them. Please be on the lookout for the other symptoms and contact your vet for the right treatment. 

cleaning dogs ears

3 – Heat Stroke (heat exhaustion)

It’s so important to recognize that most of our dogs wear a coat of fur that can make them extremely hot if left in warm temperatures all day. You should also always keep your dog’s bowl full of cool water and accessible to them. If left outside in direct sunlight, dogs can also get a sunburn which will make their ear’s hot

Unlike a fever from infection, you may notice a high temperature in your dog because of an external source such as outside heat.  This could very well lead to heat stroke or heat exhaustion. If your dog has been outside in hot heat and/or just completed an extreme exercise and they have a body temperature above 103 degrees Fahrenheit, please reach out to your vet’s office right away.

4 – Bruising (hematoma)

Dogs tend to do a lot of headshaking. They also can run around and get the zoomies and possibly run into something. Both can lead to bruising on their ears. It’s hard to know if they have a bruise since their skin and fur are very different from humans. We can easily see a bruise on our ears. With a dog, if they have a bruise on their ear, the symptoms to look for are the ears being hot or possibly ears swelling. You might also notice their blood vessels have broken.

5 – Allergies (seasonal and food)

The dreaded allergy season! Most dogs love their walks outside, at parks or just running around in your backyard. Depending on where you live and the seasonality, allergy season can be long or short. Tree pollen and grass can make our dogs have runny noses, cough often, itchy ears, and hot ears. Hot ears from environmental allergens could lead to secondary ear infections in dogs. So it’s important to take note and be sure to speak with your vet for allergy treatment options. Especially if you live in an area with a long allergy season!

Food allergies can also cause dogs’ ears to be hot. An allergic reaction to food can make our dogs incredibly itchy, especially in their ears. Often you will find your dog really scratching their ears causing them to be red and hot. This can also lead to a secondary ear infection if they scratch too hard and have an open cut. It’s a good idea to watch your dog after giving them a new food to ensure they don’t have an allergic reaction to it.

dog with head out of car window

How to treat a dog’s hot ears at home

Now that we know some of the common reasons why a dog’s ears might be hot and additional symptoms associated with those reasons, let’s take a look at what we can do as pet owners to get our dogs some relief. 

Because the ear infection could be from a number of different things such as organ infection or viral infection, it’s best to have a physical exam completed by your vet. Please be sure to document the other symptoms that your dog may be experiencing such as vomiting, diarrhea, not eating, exhaustion, etc., and for how long these symptoms have lasted. This information will be critical for your vet to diagnose your pet correctly. It’s also possible that your dog may need blood work to properly diagnose the infection. This is very common and nothing to be alarmed about. You can find out more information on blood tests and their costs for dogs here in this blog post. 

The best way to prevent ears from being infected is to keep them clean. These ear wipes are amazing for ear cleaning. Not only do they have aloe so they are soothing but it’s a cleaning wipe so no need to find cotton balls for a cleaning solution. It’s all in one! My sister uses these wipes for all 3 of her adopted dogs and it helps keep dirt and bacteria building up in their ears which reduces infection. Just be sure to look for any side effects from any cleaning solution you use on your pet’s ears to ensure it does not cause red ears or additional ear inflammation. You also want to clean the ear flap and be mindful of not going deep into your dog’s ear canal.

Ear drops are also a great way to help with a dog’s ear problems. Your vet can recommend an ear drop to help if your dog experiences mild ear infections regularly. Some dog ears are just more susceptible to ear infections and need to have ongoing treatment provided to keep our pup’s ears from being constantly irritated

When do you need to contact your vet for your dog’s hot ears?

If your dog’s ears are hot for more than 2-3 days and they have other symptoms associated with them such as inflammation, redness, higher temperature, constant scratching, and/or bleeding, you should contact your vet immediately.

This could indicate an infection requiring antibiotics or further testing and treatment that can’t be solved with a home solution. We all understand that the cost of a vet can be pricey but if you wait too long to treat an ear infection, the price could go up for additional treatment or cause permanent damage to your dog’s ears.

Regardless of price, it’s important that your dog does not stay in pain or constantly scratch their ears. The constant scratching could lead to an open wound which could then lead to infection later on. The initial cost for your dog’s ears to be examined will run anywhere between $100-$150 for most vets. You can always contact your local vet and call around to different ones to save money. If the infection is from an underlying condition or other health conditions where surgery is required, the cost will likely go up.

Many pet insurances do cover ear infections, as long as it was not a pre-existing condition before you signed up for pet insurance. Be sure to check with your pet insurance carrier if you have any questions about treatments, visits, and medicines associated with the ears and the coverage you have. Please also keep in mind that many pet insurances require you to pay out of pocket and send in reimbursement after you have made payment. 


If you notice that your dog’s ears are hotter than usual, be sure to check for other symptoms. Examine the ears for redness, bumps, or swelling, and be sure to clean them if needed. If you have any questions or concerns please reach out to your vet for the next steps to ensure your dog isn’t experiencing any pain or discomfort for a long period of time.

Has your dog had an ear infection before? If yes, please post in the comments what their diagnosis was and treatment. And of course, how are they doing now!?


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