Feline nasal passages are sensitive conduits lined with soft tissue and small blood vessels that aid your cat's breathing and sense of smell. Nosebleeds, or epistaxis, are often linked to disease, exposure to toxins or physical trauma. Even if your kitty has an active respiratory infection, it's possible there's a second issue causing the bleeding. Nosebleeds can indicate several life-threatening conditions, so talk to a veterinarian if you notice any sign of blood coming from your pet's nose.
Upper Respiratory Infection
Upper respiratory infections are rife in large groups of felines, such feral colonies and shelters, so many cats suffer from the illness at some point in their lives. The vast majority of cases are viral, although up to 20 percent of infections are of bacterial origin, according to Manhattan Cat Specialists in New York City, New York.
The most common pathogens responsible for feline respiratory infections:
- Feline herpes virus
- Feline calici.
Sneezing and excessive nasal discharge are primary symptoms of these infections. Sneezing may be persistent and severe, which can rupture blood vessels inside the cat's nose. Cats suffering from a respiratory infection also may develop a fever, congestion and eye discharge. Loss of appetite and energy is common.
If the nosebleed is not the result of ruptures from excessive sneezing, cancerous growth and fungal infection around the nasal passages are the likely suspects, according to Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine in Pullman, Washington. Benign polyps can form inside the nose and cause epistaxis.
Other illnesses that contribute to nasal bleeding include:
- Blood deficiencies, such as hemophilia and thrombocytopenia
- Cancer of the blood or bone marrow
- Feline immune deficiency virus
- Feline leukemia
Nosebleeds are associated with the consumption of various toxic materials, particularly pesticide and rodenticide. Cats can get sick by consuming poisoned rats, whether they are alive or dead. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs reduce clotting potential, which increases the risk of epistaxis. Note any medication your pet recently has consumed when you speak to the vet.
Household painkillers often contain NSAIDs. Nosebleeds may be a sign that your kitty has consumed human medicine.
While dogs are more likely to "sniff up" small objects, felines also may get things stuck in their nose. Pointed seeds and small pieces of plant matter can scrape the inside of the nose and burst blood vessels. Objects can get sucked into the upper parts of the canal, so they are not always visible during a basic examination of the nostrils.
Consult a veterinarian before removing anything stuck in your cat's nose. When in doubt, allow a medical professional to handle it.
If your cat's nose is bleeding, isolate him from other pets and family members to provide a calming environment. Hold an ice pack to the nose, leaving space for her to breath. Contact your veterinarian once you've stabilized the situation.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
For cats suffering from an active respiratory infection, the disease is the prime suspect when diagnosing nosebleeds. However, your veterinarian may conduct tests and exams to check for other causes, including:
- Blood cell count tests for anemia and missing clotting factors
- Serum analysis to screen for toxins and organ failure
- Physical examination of the nasal passages
- X-ray images of the skull
- Nasal swab and fungal culture to identify pathogens.
Solving the bloody nose is a matter of resolving the underlying cause. Bleeding from temporary conditions, such as infections, should disappear as the illness fades. Follow your vet's instructions carefully for the duration of treatment. Your pet may require extensive postoperative care if surgery was required to remove a foreign object or cancer from the nose.
- Manhattan Cat Specialists: Viral Upper Respiratory Infections in Cats
- VCA Animal Hospitals: Chronic Nasal Discharge in Cats
- Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine: Nasal Discharge and Sneezing
- VCA Animal Hospitals: Nose Bleeds or Epistaxis in Cats
- ASPCA: Upper Respiratory Infections