how to treat nosebleeds in old cats
Cat Health and Wellness

What to Do About Nosebleeds in Older Cats

When a senior cat’s nose is raw and bleeding, it is always a cause for medical concern. Nobody likes to think that their pet is in pain, and blood can cause instant panic for owners. Nosebleeds (epistaxis) in older cats are not an everyday occurrence and will require urgent attention.

How should you treat a nosebleed in an older cat? Firstly, you must stay calm. If you panic, so will your cat. This will lead to higher blood pressure, and further bleeding. Place some ice around your cat’s nose to reduce inflammation and swelling, and call a vet. You’ll need professional help to assess why it’s happening.

There are many potential causes of feline nosebleeds. This guide will discuss all of these with you, and how you can help your pet to recover. Nosebleeds are your cat’s body telling you that something is wrong, so it’s essential that you find out what has happened.

What Does a Nosebleed in a Cat Look Like?

When we hear, “nosebleed,” we tend to imagine nostrils gushing blood. This is not the case with cats, however. If your pet is struggling with this ailment, it could be subtler.

Epistaxis rarely manifests as your cat wandering around with a nose dripping blood. Instead, you will need to look out for some of these common warning signs:

  • Dried blood in and around a cat’s nose.
  • Cat sneezing regularly, releasing blood while doing so.
  • Cat snorting and pawing at the nose, as though attempting to dislodge a blockage.
  • The cat is struggling to breathe through the nose.
  • Swelling and inflammation around the cat’s nose.
  • Bloody or discolored nasal discharge.

Any of these symptoms suggest that your senior cat has a nose bleed. However, be aware that this alone is not a medical condition. If your cat’s nose is bleeding, there will be a medical explanation. You will need a professional diagnosis fro a vet to find out what this is.

How to Care for Older Cats with a Nosebleed

If you notice a nosebleed in your senior cat, call a vet. Get them checked out, even if it’s a one-off. Before you make it to the surgery, however, take some first aid procedures:

  1. Stay calm. Cats pick up on human panic, and will become fearful in turn. This will raise their blood pressure, and cause additional blood flow.
  2. Settle your cat down, and keep them still. Offer your pet reassurance, and make sure that they are stationary. Once it’s safe to do so, put your cat somewhere restricted, such as their crate. If you don’t have a crate, swaddle your cat in a towel. Just remember to keep them calm throughout the process.
  3. Apply some ice to the cat’s nose. Place ice cubes in a plastic bag and hold them against your cat’s nose. This will reduce swelling, constrict blood vessels, and stop the bleeding. Just be careful not to block your cat’s nostrils and prevent them from breathing.
  4. Clean up any dried blood around your cat’s nose. Once the bleeding has stopped, remove the remnants of blood. Be careful while you’re doing this. A cat’s nose is very delicate, and it won’t take long to get it bleeding again.

It’s vital that you find out why your cat’s nose is bleeding. Something innocuous could be to blame, but it’s equally possible that your cat has a medical concern that needs to be addressed. Many illnesses that cause epistaxis in cats require urgent attention from a veterinarian.

Do I Need to Call the Vet Every Time My Cat Has a Nosebleed?

Unless your vet has provided alternative instructions, always have your cat checked after a nosebleed. Remember, the nosebleed itself is not necessarily the problem. It’s the underlying cause that is potentially concerning. Older cats get more health ailments than younger adult cats, so the catalyst for epistaxis can vary.

Even if this is not your cat’s first nosebleed, the explanation could vary from case to case. This is likely in the case of senior cats. One thing is for sure, you should never give your cat human medication unless instructed. Most treatments designed for us are highly toxic to cats.

reasons for nosebleeds in cats

What Are the Reasons for Nosebleeds in Cats?

The reasons for a cat with epistaxis can bed medical, but others are related to lifestyle.

Some common causes of cat nosebleeds include:

  • Upper respiratory tract infections
  • Fungal infections
  • Viral infections
  • Unwelcome foreign bodies trapped in the nasal cavity
  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Inhalation of consumption of toxins
  • Parasitic infestations
  • Severe stress or anxiety
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Cancer
  • Disease in the liver or kidneys
  • Anemia, hemophilia, and blood clotting problems
  • Gum disease
  • Side effects of medications

It’s also possible that your cat’s nose is bleeding due to trauma. This could involve being struck by a blunt force, or a bite from another animal. If another cat, or even a snake, bites your cat on the nose, bleeding is likely.

Be particularly vigilant about checking your cat’s nose after any trauma. If your cat’s nose does bleed after a fall, for example, they may be struggling with internal damage.

How Do Vets Diagnose the Cause of Cat Nosebleeds?

As discussed, always take your cat to see a vet in the event of a nosebleed. Epistaxis is not random, and should not be shrugged off as, “just one of those things.”

Once you arrive, your vet will ask you a series of questions about your cat’s general health. Have they had nosebleed before? Have they displayed other signs of ill health? Have they recently experienced any physical trauma?

Once you have conducted this portion of the examination, your vet will run many tests. These will entail samples of your pet’s urine and blood, as well as a nasal swab. These will be checked for signs of infection or disease that could be provoking the nosebleeds.

If these test results are inconclusive, your cat may need to undergo an X-ray. This will expose any interior or structural damage to your cat’s nose. At least one of these procedures will make it clear where the problem lies. Your vet will then take, or advise upon, the relevant action.

Medical Treatment for Nosebleeds in Cats?

Treatment depends on the cause of cat epistaxis. Let’s take a look at potential nosebleed triggers, and discuss how they are identified and treated.

1) Upper Respiratory Tract Infections

This is the most common explanation for epistaxis, and the least serious. An upper respiratory tract infection is often the feline equivalent of a cold. It’s not fun, but rarely is it life-threatening.

See your vet if your cat has an upper respiratory tract infection. There may not be anything they can do, but it will rule out serious, underlying concerns.

Beyond this, you will likely need to treat your cat at home. That means keeping them clean – removing traces of blood from their nose – and keeping them warm.

Most cats will bounce back from an upper respiratory tract infection in three weeks.

2) Fungal and Viral Infections

The two primary forms of foreign body infections in cats are fungal or viral.

Aspergillosis is the most common fungal infection that impacts upon a cat’s nose. It stems from a fungus named the Aspergillus, which attacks a cat’s immune system. A feline that is in perfect health will typically have nothing to worry about. They will fight off Aspergillosis with a minimum of fuss. Older cats, however, tend to struggle more to recover.

Treatment for Aspergillosis can be complex. It involves anti-fungal ointment, but just rubbing it on your pet’s nose may not help. If the virus has taken hold, your cat will be anesthetized for around an hour. This is so a vet can move your pet around, ensuring treatment covers every infected area.

There are also many viral infections that impact upon cats. The most common of these is feline herpes. Unlike in humans, herpes is cats is not an STD. It can be passed between pets in kennels, or any other form of close proximity.

Viral infections can be avoided by vaccination. If your pet becomes infected, your vet will treat it with drugs. You will need to keep your cat incubated while they recover. This period of isolation may last up to three weeks.

3) Trapped Foreign Objects

Cats are inquisitive by nature, and they explore the world with their nose. This means that they may end up with foreign objects trapped in their nose.

This could be a minor irritant, which causes your cat to sneeze and burst a blood vessel. Alternatively, it may be something more serious. A foreign object could block your cat’s nasal passages, making breathing difficult.

If the object does not pass by itself, it will need to be removed. If possible, a vet will do this without resorting to surgery. A full procedure may be necessary though, depending on how embedded the object it.

4) Allergies and Sensitivities

Allergies are common explanations for epistaxis in cats. If your cat has an allergic reaction, they will likely sneeze. This could happen often, and become increasingly violent. As cat’s noses are delicate and easy to damage, they may burst blood vessels while sneezing. Nosebleeds will then follow.

The first thing you’ll need to determine together is what is causing the reaction. You will then need to minimize your cat’s exposure to these elements. Your vet will also be able to prescribe a medication that eases your cat’s discomfort.

5) Toxins

The ingestion of toxins is very serious. If your cat’s nose is bleeding in the aftermath, it suggests their body is experiencing trauma.

Cats can ingest toxins in a variety of ways. Don’t assume that just because you have hidden your chocolate, your pet is safe. An outdoor cat that hunts rodents, for example, may inadvertently consume rat poison by proxy. Equally, your cat may inhale toxins that are spread along the ground.

Treatment for toxicity in cats will depend on the substance itself. Your vet will need to make a full assessment. Gather as much information about your pet’s condition as you possibly can before arriving. The sooner your vet can act, the more likely a full recovery becomes.

6) Parasites

Parasites can often be to blame for epistaxis. Worms, mites and other unwelcome infestations can climb into a cat’s respiratory tract and cause bleeding. Traditional deworming techniques will usually rectify this problem. Naturally, remaining on top of preventative treatments is also advisable.

7) Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety have often been linked to nosebleeds, albeit indirectly. As cats are easily stressed, there’s a chance that epistaxis is linked to their mental state.

If your cat is showing class signs of stress and anxiety, this needs to be managed. In this instance, a nosebleed is a warning sign. Stress can be dangerous to cats, so never ignore the symptoms.

Your vet may prescribe an anxiety medication to slow your pet’s heart rate.

cats nose is raw and bleeding

8) Hypertension

As International Cat Care explains, hypertension is high blood pressure. It’s often linked with hyperthyroid, another condition common in senior cats. As your cat’s blood pressure rises, nosebleeds will likely follow. That blood has to go somewhere, after all.

Hypertension could be a ‘stand-alone’ condition, or part of a larger health concern. Either way, it will initially be treated with oral medication. Lifestyle changes will also be necessary. If hypertension entwines with chronic health problems such as liver failure, further treatment will be required.

9) Medical Concerns

Of course, many different medical concerns could lead to epistaxis. These include:

  • Cancer. Nobody likes to think about it, but older felines are susceptible to various cancers. If your vet discovers this a tumor, it will need to be surgically removed. Your cat may also need to undergo chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
  • Liver Disease. Problems with your cat’s liver can manifest as nosebleeds. This is because a liver disease can cause issues with blood clotting, and internal bleeding. Liver disease is usually resolved with Vitamin K injections. Your cat may also require a course of antibiotics.
  • Kidney Disease. Renal failure is another problem that frequently plagues older cats. As your pet ages, their kidneys will start to show signs of wear and tear. This makes it hard to keep up with the demands of your pet’s lifestyle. Feline kidney disease requires a special diet, as there is presently no specialist medication.
  • Coagulopathy. This is a condition where your cat’s body cannot form blood clots. This means that they will eventually experience epistaxis, as the blood keeps flowing. Coagulopathy is often accompanied by hemophilia. Your cat is likely to need a blood transfusion if they live with this condition.
  • Gum Disease. Often known as periodontal disease, gum disease is extremely common in felines. The issues caused by this condition rarely end with the mouth. Gum disease can spread and make your pet very sick. Epistaxis is just one of the warning symptoms. Be vigilant about marinating good oral health in your senior cat.

If you have reason to believe that sickness is responsible for your cat’s epistaxis, seek help. The longer that you wait, the more likely your pet is to suffer in the longer term.

Also, look at any medications that your cat is presently using. Senior cats often rely on oral treatments for different ailments. Some of these may result in thinning blood, and thus epistaxis. Your vet will discuss this with you, and potentially change your cat’s prescription.

10) Impact Trauma

Of course, impact trauma is very likely to give your cat a nosebleed. This may happen if your cat runs into something, or falls from height.

Your vet will be able to tell if your cat’s nose is bleeding through trauma. Typical signs of this include a misshapen nose, or bulging eyes. Your cat’s nose will fix itself over time, but your vet can help to manage the pain.

Can Cats Break Their Nose?

As territorial animals, outdoor cats will occasionally run afoul of antagonistic neighborhood felines. If your cat likes to roam outside, they will end up in a fight sooner or later. It’s as inevitable as breathing. Will your cat end up with a broken nose during such a confrontation?

This is a tough one to answer. Yes and no are both accurate responses, in their own way. A cat’s nose does not contain bones, just cartilage. This means that, unlike a human nose, the organ will not shatter. The cartilage can be damaged, however, which will lead to similar results to a broken nose.

This will be painful, and may cause a mildly misshapen nose in the future. See a vet for the pain, but they are unlikely to be able to do anything else. Your cat’s broken nose will heal itself, over time.

Of course, it’s not only fighting that can lead to a broken nose. Cats have a habit of putting their faces in dangerous locations. Your pet could get their nose trapped in a car door or reclining chair. They may take a fall and inflict trauma on their face. They may even run into a glass window while trapped in the thrill of a hunt.

Are Elderly Cats More Prone to Nosebleeds?

Epistaxis can inflict any cat, at any time. No breed, size, age or cat gender is more genetically disposed to the condition. Nosebleeds are a symptom, not a condition by themselves.

Some of these conditions list epistaxis as a symptom. It’s particularly frequent in hypertension, which is a common health complaint among senior cats. As a result, when your cat grows older, they may appear more prone to nosebleeds.

Remember the golden rule when treating a feline nosebleed at home – don’t panic. The calmer your cat is, the less likely their nosebleed is to get any worse. As your cat enters their senior years, they may become more and more susceptible to epistaxis. This means that you have a responsibility to be vigilant about monitoring their health.