Medically known as epistaxis, nosebleeds are a relatively uncommon problem in cats. While some causes are harmless (such as a minor knock), there are several potentially serious causes of nosebleeds in cats, therefore it is important you seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.
What causes nosebleeds in cats?
There are several possible causes of nosebleeds in cats, the most common being trauma to the nose, other causes include:
- Blood clotting disorders such as haemophilia.
- Ingestion of poisons (rat poison, aspirin). It is possible for cats to either directly consume rat poison or to indirectly become poisoned by killing and/or eating a rodent who has ingested rat poison itself.
- Foreign body (such as grass seed).
- Trauma (running into something, hit by car etc).
- Dental abscess.
- Infections (bacterial, viral, fungal) which can cause ulceration.
- Liver failure.
- Kidney failure.
- High blood pressure.
Symptoms of nosebleeds in cats:
Obviously, the presence of blood coming from one or both of the nostrils, however, there may be accompanying symptoms depending on the underlying cause. These may include:
- Swelling around the nose or mouth. I had a cat with bone cancer and the first symptom we observed was blood and a slight protrusion from one nostril.
- Pus or nasal secretions (snot) also coming from the nose.
- Eye discharge.
- Bad breath.
- Loss of appetite.
- Black stool (melena), this is caused by your cat swallowing blood.
- Pale gums.
- Bleeding from other parts of the body including the anus, eyes, gums etc.
- Pawing at the nose.
Place an ice pack on the bridge of the nose, this will help to reduce the flow of blood and assist in clotting.
Veterinary diagnosis and care:
Your veterinarian will perform a physical examination of your cat, including a medical history, he will want to know how long the bleeding has been present and if there were any previous episodes. Other questions relating to your cat's general health, including appetite and activity levels, exposure to possible toxins and/or medications. The nose will be examined for foreign objects, the mouth for signs of dental disease or abscess. He will wish to perform some diagnostic tests, including:
Complete blood count - To check for anemia.
Biochemical profile - To determine the overall health status of your cat.
Urinalysis - To check the kidney function, and for possible infection.
Radiographs of the nasal passages may be required if a tumour is suspected.
CT scan - This is a much more detailed type of x-ray which will need to be performed in a specialist veterinary centre (our cat had her CT scan in a human hospital).
Endoscopy - The insertion of a thin, flexible tube to check the nasal passages. This may need to be performed at a specialist veterinary practice.
What is the treatment for nosebleeds in cats?
Treatment depends on the cause of the nosebleed. If it is due to trauma, ice may be all that is required. In severe cases, the cat may have his nasal passages packed to control the blood loss.
Infections will be treated with appropriate medications. Antibiotics for bacterial infections, antifungals for fungal infections. Most viral infections can not be treated with medication and supportive care is required while your cat fights off the infection.
Removal of any foreign bodies, this may need to be performed under anesthetic.
Surgery &/or chemotherapy will be required for cancers.
Activated charcoal may be administered to a cat who has consumed rat poison along with intravenous fluids and if necessary a blood transfusion. Vitamin K may also be administered.
Surgery to drain an abscess along with antibiotics.
Blood clotting disorders are treated with blood plasma and blood transfusions in an emergency, home treatment includes vitamin K.