Does Your Pooch Get Nosebleeds? Understanding Epistaxis
Veterinarian Reviewed by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM on September 6, 2018
Posted in Dog Injury
If you’ve ever seen your dog run up to you with blood dripping from its face, you know how scary this experience can be. The source of the bleeding may be a cut or scratch on the head, but it could also be from another problem: a nosebleed. Much like in humans, dogs can experience nosebleeds from time to time.
Although an occasional nosebleed is perfectly normal for a human, nosebleeds are not normal in dogs. The occurrence of a canine nosebleed almost always indicates some sort of health problem, ranging from a minor infection to a tumor or cancer. For this reason, canine nosebleeds are not something to take lightly. If you see your pup experiencing one, you’ll want to schedule a trip to the vet as soon as possible.
Signs and causes of canine nosebleeds
A nosebleed, also known as epistaxis, is most obvious by the presence of fresh, red blood dripping or streaming from your dog’s nose. It may also be accompanied by symptoms such as sneezing, pawing at the nose and discolored nasal discharge.
Epistaxis is caused by a hemorrhage in the nasal cavity or nostril. Nosebleeds are usually brought about by head trauma or a bacterial, viral or fungal infection in the upper respiratory tract. However, they can also be caused by a variety of other, far more serious health problems, such as:
- Nasal tumor
- Dental disease
- Foreign object in the nose
- Ingestion of rat poison
- High blood pressure
Younger and middle-aged dogs are more likely to get nosebleeds from physical trauma, usually caused by rough play with another dog. Older dogs are more likely to develop nosebleeds from tumors in the nasal cavity or cancer.
What to do when your dog gets a nosebleed
If you notice that your dog’s nose is bleeding, the first thing you’ll want to do is stop the bleeding as quickly as possible. Get an icepack or wrap a plastic bag full of ice cubes in a towel and place it on the bridge of your dog’s nose. This will help constrict the nasal blood vessels to slow or stop the bleeding.
While waiting, look to see if the bleed is occurring in one nostril or both. This might help narrow down what is wrong with your pooch. Do not give your dog any medication unless it has been prescribed for nosebleeds by a vet, and do not stick any cotton balls or cloth in the nose to absorb the blood.
Make sure to stay calm while addressing the nosebleed. If you get your dog excited or scared, its blood pressure may rise, which can make the bleeding more intense.
If your dog is having difficulty breathing or the nosebleed shows no signs of stopping, you should take your dog to an emergency vet right away. If the bleeding does stop, you should still take your dog into the vet soon to have it checked out and find the root cause.
Veterinary testing for epistaxis
When you go to the vet, they will first check for physical signs of illness, looking around the gums and nose for abnormalities and facial swelling. Make sure to give the vet as much information as possible, including any potential causes of head trauma, any medications your dog has taken, which nostril the bleeding was coming from and if your dog has been acting strangely leading up to the nosebleed.
Then, the vet will draw blood to check for anemia and other problems, as well as conduct a urinalysis. These tests may either identify the problem right away or rule out a number of problems. If the blood and urine analyses do not identify the source of the nosebleed, then your dog will likely need to be put under anesthesia for your vet to conduct a nasal examination.
Once your vet has determined the cause of the nosebleed, they will prescribe a specific course of treatment for you to follow. Treatments will target the underlying cause of the nosebleed, as epistaxis is a symptom, not a condition itself.
Most nosebleeds can be treated easily with medication, and many pups make a full recovery a short while after their nosebleed. Unfortunately, though, some causes of epistaxis are much more severe and will require more intense treatment and care throughout your dog’s life.
If you notice that your pooch has a nosebleed, don’t hesitate to take action. Stopping the bleeding will help your dog remain calm and comfortable until you can get it to a vet to be examined. By having your dog checked out by a vet early on, your dog will have a better opportunity to heal quickly.
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan