Picture this: Your dog goes up to you for his normal love pats and ear scratches. The moment your dog lays their head on your lap or you touch their ears to reach that "sweet spot," you notice that their ears are considerably colder than normal. What do you do?
If you're like most owners, you'll probably start to get a bit concerned. As a dog owner, you're familiar with your pup's normal body temperature. So, a sudden change in temperature can be a bit alarming.
There are several reasons why your dog's ears might be cold. For the most part, the causes are benign. However, those chilly ears may also be a symptom of a larger undiagnosed health problem.
To ease your worries, here are some common reasons why a dog's ears can get cold and what you should do about it.
#1. Cool Weather
Sometimes, the issue is simply cool weather! Like humans, dogs react to extreme temperature changes. They may start bundling up to get away from the snow or cold wind. Of course, your dog will need to go outside at some point. That's where the trouble begins.
You see, dog ears are a lot like that of humans. They're primarily made of cartilage. There aren't as many blood vessels running up to those extremities like there is in other parts of the body.
Circulation is key to keeping warm. Unfortunately, the lack of blood vessels can make your dog's ears feel frosty after only a few minutes. The body naturally prioritizes vital organs when its put through extreme temperature changes.
When your pup steps outside to do their business in the dead of winter, the ears are one of the last body parts prioritized. This results in them getting cold faster.
Cold Weather Affects Dogs Differently
It's important to remember that temperatures affect dogs differently. Those with thick coats of fur are going to be able to tolerate the winter better than others.
Short-haired breeds are prone to getting cool much faster. The same goes for young puppies and senior dogs.
Senior dogs, in particular, are susceptible to the effects of cold weather because they aren't able to regulate body temperature as well.
They usually have lower body fat percentages, which means that they don't have as much insulation. Plus, that cold temperature is affecting their joints. So, exercise caution when taking your older dog out for a walk on those cool winter mornings.
Smaller breeds tend to get cold pretty fast as well. Thanks to their small stature, they have less body heat compared to large breeds. If you plan on taking your dog out in the cooler months, it's a good idea to invest in a sweater for insulation.
Finally, there are dogs with perky ears. Breeds like the Siberian Husky, German Shepherd, and Corgi have adorable erect ears that perk up anytime whenever they get excited. Those ears have more exposure to the cool air compared to ears that flop down close to the body.
As a result, they tend to get cool quicker.
What You Can Do
If cold weather is to blame, the best thing you can do is limit your dog's exposure. Try utilizing an ear wrap or sweater to keep your dog's body temperature up as long as possible.
Only let them out for a few minutes at a time in extreme cold. Then, crank up the heat and bundle them up when it's time to go back inside. Your dog's ears should go back to normal in a few minutes.
If your dog has spent a lot of time outside, they may be experiencing the early symptoms of frostbite. You can identify this by taking a look at the color of their ears. Bright pink coloration is a big cause for concern.
Frostbite is when the tissue gets damaged. Depending on the severity of the issue, the tissue can become blackened and fall off. This often occurs in extremities with very little blood circulation. The ears, tail, and paws are often the first to be affected.
What You Need to Do
You should bring your dog inside immediately if you notice that their ears are getting pink. Then, apply a warm compress to the ears for 5 to 10 minutes. Chances are, your dog will have a lower overall body temperature, so it's a good idea to bundle them up as well.
It's a good idea to consult with a vet if things are serious. They can see if your dog is experiencing hypothermia and determine if any additional action should be taken.
Another common cause for cold ears is an illness. Contrary to popular belief, dogs are not immune to common colds and fevers. They can contract viruses just like we humans do.
Don't worry. There's a very slim chance that your pup's condition will make you sick. Most dogs catch viruses whenever they are around other infected dogs. It's pretty common in vet offices and dog parks.
The strange temperature change in the ears is most likely caused by your pup's body trying to fight off the illness. Not all dogs will experience cold ears. Some will experience increased temperatures instead.
Cold ears are just one of many symptoms that could inflict your pup when they get sick.
You might also see them dry-heaving or coughing. Sniffles and a constant flow of mucus coming out of their nose is relatively common as well. In serious cases, your canine companion may exhibit signs of lethargy and weakness, too.
What You Should Do
The good news is that most mild colds go away after only a few days. The best thing you can do is provide your pup with plenty of love and attention. Many dogs get clingy when they're feeling under the weather.
They don't know what's going on and just want to be around those that they love. So, show your dog how much you care. Give them some extra attention. The goal is to make them feel as comfortable as possible while they recover.
In the meantime, make sure that your dog has plenty of access to clean water. Canines can get pretty dehydrated when they're sick, so they'll need all the water they can get. To be safe, you can also clean out their dishes, toys, and bed.
If your dog's temperature starts to rise, consider taking them to the vet. You should also look out for serious symptoms, such as confusion, vomiting, and extreme weakness. High fevers can have lasting effects on a dog, so you must provide them with the right care as soon as possible.
#4. Circulation Issues
Typically, the causes of cold ears we've already gone over can be dealt with swiftly and efficiently. But what if the problem persists? In that case, it could be a systemic disorder caused by circulatory problems.
While this is rare, circulatory problems can affect dogs of all ages. It's most common in elderly canines.
The circulatory system is responsible for delivering blood throughout your dog's body. The heart is at the core of the system. It pumps warm blood throughout your dog's veins. As a result, the circulatory system regulates body temperature and ensures that all of the vital organs are getting the nutrients they need.
When a problem prevents the circulatory system from performing as it should, you need to address it immediately. The longer you ignore the problem, the worse it will get.
Your dog's circulation can be affected by many different things. The most common are heart conditions, bleeding tumors, organ infections, and anemia. In most instances, circulatory problems are accompanied by a few different symptoms.
In addition to cold ears and other extremities, you might notice redness around the paws, regular shivering, and noticeable lethargy.
What You Can Do
A trip to the vet is essential if you suspect that circulatory issues are to blame for your dog's cold ears. Your vet will be able to perform several tests to diagnose the exact cause of the problem. Then, they can work with you to come up with a care plan.
If the circulation problems are caused by an infection or tumor, solving that issue will usually restore circulation. However, heart problems are a bit trickier to deal with.
In those cases, dogs usually have to take medications and make serious life changes to stay healthy. The key to helping your dog manage a life-long condition is early diagnosis, so don't avoid the vet.
Generally, cold ears are no cause for concern. While there is a chance that serious medical problems could be the culprit, it's quite rare. Chances are, your dog's body is simply responding to the cool temperatures outside.
Just be wary of your dog's needs. Use those cold ears as a sign that your dog needs some warmth. Give them a cozy blanket and plenty of cuddles. Their ears should warm up in no time.
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