If your dog's ears are cold you may be concerned and wondering what may be going on with your dog healthwise. Many dog owners are accustomed to the normal temperature of their dog's ears and can readily recognize when their dog's ears are cold. Whether cold ears in dogs are a problem or not, generally depends on whether there are other symptoms and the dog's overall health status. If you are concerned about your dog's cold ears, it's always best to err on the side of caution and have your dog see your veterinarian for an evaluation.
Help, My Dog's Ears are Cold!
Cold ears in dogs may due to various causes. Just as it happens in humans, it is possible for a dog's temperature to rise or lower depending on several factors.
One main factor is the temperature of the dog's surrounding environment. If your dog was recently been outside, it is not unusual for him to develop cold ears.
Cold paws in dogs and cold ears in this case may be normal considering that paws and ears are body parts that are considered extremities. Cold ears are more likely to occur in dogs with short hair or dogs with very little body mass (think Chihuahuas or whippets).
When temperatures plummet, the dog's body focuses mainly in maintaining its core warm which is where the most vital organs are located. To maintain the core warm, the body naturally sacrifices the extremities. This is done by slowing down the blood flow to the extremities such as the paws, nose, tip of the tail and ears. Generally, cold ears and cold paws in such cases, are only temporarily, and soon, once the dog is taken inside, they should return to their normal temperature.
Sometimes, dogs may get frostbite on their ears. Keep an eye on ears that appear bright pink. If your dog has frostbite in the ears, you can apply some warm compresses for 5 to 10 minutes at a time in hopes of bringing back blood flow to the area. See your vet for severe cases of frostbite with the skin showing signs of numbness, blisters and swelling.
Cold ears may also occur temporarily when dogs are stressed or after eating. Generally, the temperature of a dog's ears is overall not a reliable indicator of the dog's body temperature or health unless it is accompanied by other worrisome signs or symptoms.
Systemic Disorders That Warrant Attention
Much more worrisome is the onset of cold ears in dogs accompanied by symptoms. For instance, in a dog with cold ears, the symptoms of shaking and lethargy may be suggestive of a circulatory problem.
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Other than circulation issues, cold ears may be suggestive of some underlying issue that is causing the center that regulates the dog's body temperature to shut down.
A dog's cardiovascular system involves the heart and blood vessels. Its responsibility is to have the heart pumping properly and carrying blood to the rest of the dog's body. The circulation of blood throughout the dog's body is important as blood contains important nutrients and vital oxygen which allows organs and tissue to effectively work.
Circulatory problems in dogs can be due to heart problems, bleeding tumors such as hemangiosarcomas of the heart or spleen, infections, kidney or liver disease, anemia and several other medical issues.
All of these conditions are very serious and warrant immediate veterinary attention. As mentioned though, dogs with these conditions are usually quite ill, possibly very lethargic and weak.
What to Watch For
If your dog has cold ears and is acting ill, please have your dog see the vet at your earliest convenience. If, 0n the other hand, your dog has cold ears and appears healthy and is bright and alert, most likely the cold ears are nothing major to worry about. However, if you are concerned or are baffled by the cold ears as you have never felt them that cold before, you can do a little check-up.
A good place to start is by looking at your dog's mouth and gums. Of course, do this only if your dog is collaborative and doesn't mind having his mouth checked by you. Simply, lift the lip and take a good look at the color of your dog's gums and tongue. They should be a normal pink color.
If you notice pale, white or grayish gums, then it's a good idea to have your dog seen by a vet as soon as you can. Pale gums in dogs are indicative of reduced blood flow and possible circulatory problems.
Another test is taking your dog's temperature. You can use a normal thermometer but in dogs the temperature needs to be taken rectally. Lubricate the tip with Vaseline and insert the tip about an inch inside the dog's rectum. If you are using a digital thermometer, wait for it to beep. If manual, leave it in for a full minute. A dog's normal temperature is 101 to 102.5F.
If your dog's temperature is low, consider having your dog see the vet. In the meanwhile, you can grab some warm towels to try to raise that temperature to at least 99.5F. Take your dog's temperature every 15 minutes until reaching 99.5F. Follow up with your veterinarian as soon as you can, especially if your dog is acting ill.