Bloody Noses in Cats

Close-up of cat nose with blood.
Nose bleeds in cats can be due to a simple scratch or something more serious internally.

Getty images/krblokhin

Nose bleeds are also known as epistaxis and can occur in a cat for several reasons but it can be scary if you suddenly see blood coming out of your cat's nose. Stopping this bleeding is the first thing most cat owners will want to do but once that is under control, it's helpful for cat owners to know the reasons why a nose bleed may occur and how these reasons can be treated or prevented.

What To Do if Your Cat's Nose Is Actively Bleeding

If you see blood coming out of your cat's nose, take a damp cloth and gently try and wipe it away. Watch the nose closely to see if you can tell where the blood is coming from as this will help you determine what to do next. If the bleeding is coming from the outside of the nose due to an injury, try to apply gentle pressure to the wound without obstructing the nostrils. Try and keep your cat calm and if it will allow it, apply a small ice pack or ice cube wrapped in a wash cloth to the bleeding area to slow it. If a large wound is present, veterinary attention is warranted.

If the bleeding is in fact coming out of one or both nostrils, you'll want to seek veterinary care but attempt similar methods to slow the bleeding. Keep your cat calm and apply an ice cube or ice pack to the bridge of the nose to slow the bleeding. Be careful not to obstruct the nostrils, especially if you have a Persian cat or another breed with a smushed in nose. Even though the bleeding is coming from inside the nose, icing the general nose area can help decrease the size of the blood vessels and therefore slow down how much blood is coming out of the nostrils.

Causes of Nose Bleeds in Cats

Nose bleeds can be minor or serious depending on what causes them. The causes are classified as being either coagulopathies (disease affecting the blood and/or clotting factors), vascular (affecting blood vessels), or systemic (affecting the whole body) and some examples are as follows:

  • Trauma: An injury to the head, mouth, or nose can cause bleeding internally or externally in a cat. Falls, being hit by a vehicle, fights with other animals, and other types of trauma may all lead to a nose bleed. Some types of trauma are more serious than others, especially if they can internal bleeding.
  • Poisons: Various rodent poisons can also be toxic to cats if they eat them and can cause nose bleeds due to the internal bleeding it creates. These causes are typically coagulopathies.
  • Medications: Some medications, such as antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs, antifungals, and hormones can have side effects that include nose bleeds.
  • Cancers: Cancer can cause a variety of issues in a cat including nose bleeds if the cancer affects the head or blood. Sometimes it is due to changes in the blood, pressure a tumor puts on blood vessels, or a bleeding tumor in the nasal passages that causes this bleeding.
  • Liver failure: Issues with a cat's liver can result in nose bleeds due to systemic or vascular causes.
  • Kidney failure: Renal issues including high blood pressure can result in nose bleeds in cats due to systemic or vascular causes.
  • Viruses: Occasionally some viral infections such as FIV and FeLV can cause nose bleeds in cats.
  • Blood clotting issues: If your cat has a disease such as immune-mediated thrombocytopenia or another problem that affects how well it forms clots then nose bleeds may occur. These are coagulopathy causes.
  • Ticks: Some ticks can cause blood clotting issues and therefore also nose bleeds in cats.
  • Fungal infections: Fungal infections, such as Cryptococcus neoformans infections, in the sinus cavities and nasal passages can irritate and inflame blood vessels. This can result in nose bleeds in cats.
  • Dental issues: If a tooth root becomes infected or there are other oral issues then a nose bleed may occur in a cat.

Despite this long list, other causes of nose bleeds also exist.

What Will Your Vet Do for a Nose Bleed?

To control acute bleeding, sedation, ice on the nose, and even small amounts of epinephrine to constrict the blood vessels may be necessary.

Once the bleeding is under control and in order to find the reason for the nose bleed, various lab tests will be recommended after a full physical examination is performed by your veterinarian. Blood and urine tests, X-rays, and potentially even CT scans may be recommended to determine the reason for the nose bleed if it isn't due to obvious trauma. Various medications, surgery, ablations/cauterizations, IV fluids, and even blood transfusions may be warranted depending on the severity of and reason for the nose bleed. If the cause is something that is not able to be corrected immediately, cats with chronic nose bleeding issues may benefit from an oral Chinese herb called Yunnan Baiyo which your veterinarian can prescribe for your pet.