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Dog’s Ears Are Cold: 4 Reasons Why & What to Do About It

Any time your dog’s behavior changes, it can be concerning. Figuring out what’s wrong with your furry friend when they’re acting strange or exhibiting unusual behavior is more difficult than diagnosing another person. Since your dog can’t tell you what’s bothering them, you have to play detective and uncover what’s wrong on your own.

One common affliction your dog might display is cold ears. Having cold ears isn’t immediately cause for concern, but there could be some underlying medical conditions that warrant a trip to the vet in rare cases. In this article, we’ll break down the four most common causes of cold ears and what you can do to help your pooch in each case.

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The 4 Main Reasons a Dog’s Ears Are Cold Are:

1. It’s Cold Outside

This seems like a no-brainer, but dogs react to the cold differently than humans, and it can be surprising how quickly a dog’s ears get cold after just a little time outside in the frosty weather. Dogs’ ears are thin and far from the center of their bodies, so they’re the first places to drop in temperature when your dog starts to get cold.

If you have a small dog, a short-haired dog, or an older dog, you need to be especially attentive when you take them out in the cold. Small dogs lose heat more quickly than larger dogs and can get dangerously cold in mere minutes when the temperature is below freezing.

Short-haired dogs are also susceptible to the cold since they lack the large, insulating coats that long-haired dogs enjoy. If you notice your dog shaking or quivering, it’s time to come inside.

Many people don’t realize that older dogs can get cold more easily than younger dogs. As a dog ages, its circulation system becomes less efficient and less effective. Just like people, senior dogs can get cold quite easily, so be careful taking out your aging buddy during the cooler months.

Norwegian dog in the wind
Image Credit: Nyvoll, Shutterstock

What to Do About It

The easiest way to deal with cold weather is to limit your dog’s time outside. If you notice them getting cold—either by feeling their ears or seeing shaking—get them inside immediately.

If your dog has short hair or is a smaller dog, consider getting them an insulating coat or sweater for the cold weather. Putting a coat on your fuzzy buddy isn’t a replacement for monitoring them attentively, but it can help them feel more comfortable.

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2. Frostbite

On a related note, cold ears from cold weather can escalate quickly from an easily fixed non-issue to a serious problem. In some cases, frostbitten ears can require surgery, and your dog may lose part of its ear.

If your dog’s ears start to develop a bright pink color, get them out of the cold as soon as possible. Once inside, you can take some measures to help restore proper blood flow.

What to Do About It

Once you’re safely back inside, soak a washcloth in warm water and apply it to their ears. Continue applying the warm cloth for about 10 minutes.

It’s a good idea to warm up the rest of your dog as well since frostbitten ears most likely mean their body temperature is quite low. Warm towels or blankets are the best ways to quickly get your dog’s temperature back up to safe levels.

If your dog’s ears do not improve or if they act lethargic, take them to your vet right away. Dogs can become hypothermic just like people, and it can be life-threatening. Professional help is always the best option when your dog’s health is at risk.

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3. They’re Sick

sick jack russell
Image credit: Javier Brosch, Shutterstock

Some dog owners don’t realize that their four-legged friends can get sick just like they can. While dogs and humans don’t usually catch the same colds, your dog can come down with a cold from interacting with other dogs. If your canine companion had contact with a sick dog at a dog park or in the neighborhood, they could come down with something.

Dogs exhibit a variety of symptoms when they’re sick. Some dogs will run fevers, others will develop a cough, and some could have cold ears. It isn’t one of the more common symptoms, but if your dog’s ears are cold in conjunction with a cough or sneezing, it could be due to a virus.

What to Do About It

Unfortunately, there isn’t much to do if your dog has a virus. Just like how there isn’t a cure for the common cold in humans, colds in dogs also don’t have any treatment. If your dog’s ears are cold because of a virus, they should return to normal when the cold passes after only a few days.

If your dog’s ears remain cold for longer than a few days, you should consult your vet. Monitoring your dog for a fever is essential if you think they might be sick. Keep an eye out for other more serious signs like lethargy, vomiting, and unusual behavior. If your dog exhibits any of these signs, contact your vet immediately for treatment.

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4. Circulatory Function

Your dog’s circulatory system could also be the culprit for cold ears if it isn’t working correctly, and, unlike the other causes, this one can be serious. Rest assured that this cause is rare. Most likely, your dog’s cold ears are being caused by something else, but in some cases, it could be their circulatory system.

The heart is the central piece of the circulatory system and the first place to look when it’s not working properly. If your dog’s heart isn’t pumping blood as efficiently, the first places you’ll see the signs are in the tail, paws, and ears.

Your dog’s circulatory system could be struggling due to several underlying conditions. Heart problems, anemia, and internal bleeding could all be the root cause of circulation issues.

Sick French Bulldog
Image credit: Mylene2401, Pixabay

What to Do About It

You must seek a veterinarian’s opinion if you think your dog’s cold ears could be caused by circulation issues. Getting a professional opinion is the first step for dealing with whatever may be affecting your dog’s circulation.

Even if your buddy’s circulatory system is malfunctioning, some treatments can help manage the problem. If your dog has heart disease, some medications can help treat most conditions, and some lifestyle changes can go a long way to restoring your dog to a normal, happy life.

If a tumor or internal bleeding is causing the problem, surgical intervention is often required. The good news is if the surgery is successful, your dog will usually return to normal life afterward.

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Your dog’s cold ears are most likely being caused by something benign and easy to deal with. Some warm compresses and a bunch of cozy towels and blankets will usually do the trick.

If the problem persists or your dog shows other, more serious signs combined with cold ears, it is time for a trip to the vet. There is no replacement for a professional medical opinion, and your vet can put you and your dog back on the right track.

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Featured Image Credit: Chamois huntress, Shutterstock