Epistaxis is the medical term for blood coming from the nose, and it can occur from one nostril or from both. In most cases, epistaxis in dogs that occurs suddenly usually occurs because of trauma, and a close second would be epistaxis due to an upper respiratory infection.

While nose bleeds are quite dramatic to witness (and not to mention very messy!) when they occur for these reasons, generally it’s not a huge deal. As long as the trauma that caused the bloody nose didn’t wreak too much other havoc, your dog will likely be just fine as soon as the bleeding stops.

Causes of bloody noses in pets

However, a bloody nose can also be a sign that something more sinister is occurring. If trauma is not suspected, the first thing that comes to mind when a dog comes in with a bloody nose is a blood clotting disorder. When blood can’t clot, any wound or bump can be life threatening. Clotting issues known for causing epistaxis include:

  • Ingestion of rodenticide (rat poison)
  • Von Willebrand disease
  • Hemophilia
  • Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation (DIC)
  • Immune Mediated Thrombocytopenia (IMTP)
  • Liver failure

Sometimes systemic disease is to blame. The tick-borne diseases Ehrlichia and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can both cause bloody noses. And other times, local disease is the cause, as is the case when nasal tumors or nasal fungal disease is present.

Diagnosis and treatment

Of course, epistaxis is easy to diagnose, but the underlying cause often isn’t. If trauma or respiratory infection isn’t to blame, your vet will go on a hunt for the cause of your dog’s bloody nose.

Routine blood work, like a CBC and chemical profile, will account for the health of the liver and the presence of adequate platelets and red blood cells. Other clotting tests may be recommended to ensure your dog’s blood can adequately clot, and tests for tick borne disease will be run. Because occasionally high blood pressure is to blame for epistaxis, your veterinarian will likely want to check your dog’s blood pressure, too.

Treatment will depend on the underlying cause when epistaxis is secondary to some other condition.

What to do if your dog has a bloody nose

If your pet has a sudden onset bloody nose, try to remain calm. But more importantly, try to keep your pet calm to keep his blood pressure normal.

Feel free to try a cold pack on your dog’s muzzle to staunch the flow of blood, making sure to leave the nasal passages free so that your dog can breathe.

Usually, the bloody nose will resolve, and if it’s a one-off thing, you may not even need to visit the vet. But epistaxis that doesn’t stop or recurring epistaxis should be brought to your vet’s attention, as it could signal serious disease.

Feb 26, 2014
Pet Health

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