how to treat nosebleeds in old cats
Cat Health and Wellness

What to Do About Nosebleeds in Older Cats

Nosebleeds in senior cats are uncommon. There are two reasons why a cat will bleed from the nose. It may have experienced physical trauma, or there is a medical or environmental explanation (called epistaxis.)

A cat’s nosebleed will be treated with ice. Place ice in a plastic bag and wrap it in a cloth. Place this on the bridge of your cat’s nose. This will constrict blood vessels in the nose. Before long, the bleeding will stop. Clean your cat’s nose and ensure that it does not swallow excess blood.

Cats can experience nosebleeds for a variety of reasons. Ice will always stop a nosebleed, but identifying the underlying cause is critical. This will mean that the right type of treatment can immediately be provided.

Cat Nosebleed Identification

Blood will not necessarily pour from the nostrils of a feline. A nosebleed can be quite subtle. Signs that your cat’s nose is bleeding include:

  • Nasal discharge with flecks of blood
  • Bubbles from the nose
  • Pawing at the nose
  • Snorting

A cat with a nosebleed must not be ignored. A cat’s bleeding nose is a sign of trauma or medical problem.

Treating Nosebleeds in Older Cats

Understanding the cause of epistaxis can help you tailor your response to the bleeding. Examples of this are as follows:

  • Trauma to the nose
  • Emotional stress
  • Irritation or trapped foreign objects
  • Dry air
  • Upper respiratory infections

If you can identify the reason for a cat’s nosebleed, you can take a situation-based approach to resolve it. Different causes of epistaxis require different, bespoke management, so we’ll explore each in turn.

reasons for nosebleeds in cats

1/ Trauma

If your cat has experienced trauma, check for a cut on the nose. The blood may be flowing from the cut and not the nostrils. This could be caused by scratching with claws or a collision with an object, such as a tree or fence.

If you find a wound, focus on reducing the bleeding from the nose. Apply pressure with a soft cloth or bandage. When the bleeding stops, gently dab at the wound. Do not wipe or drag. Doing so risks reopening the cut.

When the bleeding has stopped, seal the wound. If the cut is small, use a styptic pencil. This will sting, so restrain your cat’s paws. You risk being clawed otherwise. If the wound is larger than half an inch, then stitches will be required.

Apply an antibiotic ointment to prevent the wound from growing infected. Ensure the ointment is safe for consumption. Your cat will not be able to resist licking the wound.

If you cannot find a cut on the nose, seek veterinary attention. This suggests the bleeding is internal. Your cat may have an injury to its head or skull.

2/ Stress

Emotional stress increases a cat’s heart rate. This leads to spontaneous hypertension. According to the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, epistaxis is regularly a symptom of high blood pressure in cats.

A stressed cat with a nosebleed must be calmed down as a matter of priority. Bleeding from the nose will aggravate the anxiety. You must slow down your cat’s heart rate. Take the cat to a quiet room. Offer soothing words, but do not touch the cat until it is calm.

Creating this safe space is critical. Your cat was stressed for a reason. Moving the cat will separate it from stress triggers. These could have been loud noises, inappropriate surroundings or another pet in the cat’s territory. The cat will not calm down while still exposed to these stressors.

Ensure you do not grow upset yourself. As Animal Cognition confirms, cats recognize extreme human emotions. Your cat will assume that a heightened level of anxiety is an appropriate response to a nosebleed.

If you give your cat reason to be afraid, the nosebleed will get worse. As a cat grows excited or frightened, its blood pressure will rise. This makes blood rush to the head all over again. This, in turn, causes further bleeding.

You should also keep your cat as still as possible. The more your cat moves, the more it will bleed. If your cat enjoys time in a crate or carry bag, use this to control its movement. If not, wrap your cat in a towel.

How to Control Bleeding from the Nose

Treating a cat’s nosebleed differs from that of a human. Never pinch a cat’s nose and tilt its head back. This will prevent a cat from breathing and the cat may swallow blood. This can become a choking hazard.

Instead, apply ice to the bridge of the cat’s nose. The purpose of the ice is to constrict the blood vessels in your cat’s nose. This will slow, and eventually cease, the bleeding caused by high blood pressure. Do not cover the cat’s nostrils. This will restrict breathing, especially in brachycephalic breeds.

An icepack from a first aid kit will often be too large for a cat. Take ice cubes from your freezer and place them in a plastic bag. Wrap this bag in a thin washcloth or towel before applying it to the nose to prevent ice burn.

A nosebleed may appear painful. Never offer your cat human medication, especially aspirin. As the British Veterinary Journal explains, aspirin is toxic to cats and thins the blood. This will lead to anemia and further, uncontrollable bleeding.

3/ Irritation and Foreign Objects

If your cat has a foreign object trapped in its nostrils, it may cause a nosebleed. This could be a blade of grass, a stone, or a household item. Until this object is removed, the nosebleed will continue.

Removing a foreign object from a cat’s nostrils is difficult. The cat will fidget. Attempting to remove the object with tweezers can cause injury. This will aggravate nosebleeds, so a nasal endoscopy is safer.

Cat noses can also be irritated by breathing in irritants. Common examples include air fresheners, dust, and smoke. If your cat’s nose begins to bleed, relocate it immediately. Removing access to the irritant is the first step.

Stem the bleeding from your cat’s nose, if necessary. Ordinarily, this bleeding will stop naturally once exposure to the irritation ceases. Clear the rest of your home of whatever irritated your cat’s nose. Do not allow your cat to re-enter the territory until it is safe to do so.

4/ Dry Air

The membranes in your cat’s nose will become dry and irritable, forming crusts. If the cat sneezes as a result of this irritation, its nose will bleed.

Dry air is common in winter months. Windows will be closed and central heating turned on. This can lead to an uncomfortable room temperature. Dry air can be reduced with a humidifier.

A room temperature above 75 degrees Fahrenheit risks causing a nosebleed in a cat. If this happens, cool your cat off. This can be challenging for indoor cats. A cooling mat or damp towel should work.

Once your cat is cooler, the nose will cease bleeding. Allow the blood to clot, then remove the build-up of crust inside the nostrils. Use a damp Q-Tip for this. If you push too hard, you risk aggravating the bleeding again.

cats nose is raw and bleeding

5/ Respiratory Infection

If an older cat sneezes to excess, blood vessels in the nose will burst. Examples of upper respiratory infections include:

  • Feline herpesvirus (FHV)
  • Feline calicivirus (FCV)
  • Bordetellosis
  • Mycoplasma
  • Chlamydophila

If a cat with a respiratory infection gets a nosebleed, move it to the bathroom. Close the door and run the hot taps to fill the lungs with steam.

Breathing in steam eases the build-up of mucus in a cat’s nose. This, in turn, will lead to less violent sneezing and make treatment easier.

You can now stem the bleeding from your cat’s nose. With clearer airways, the epistaxis will not return.

6/ Medical Concerns

Your senior cat may have a major healthcare concern. Medical explanations for epistaxis include:

  • Consumption of toxins, such as rodent poison or pesticides
  • Side effects of medications
  • Blood disorders (anemia, hemophilia or coagulopathy)
  • Kidney failure
  • Feline leukemia or cancerous growths
  • Fungal infection

In the event of toxicity or a major medical issue, the cause must be treated. Nosebleeds are a symptom of a different complaint.

If your cat has developed nosebleeds since starting prescription medication, inform your vet. A change in mediation will be necessary. Nosebleeds are a sign that the cat’s body is rejecting the medicine.

Fungal infections are treated with topical infections. If your cat is taking antibiotics, the infection can gain a stranglehold. This will lead to more nosebleeds. Wear gloves while clearing up your cat’s nosebleed. Fungal infections are often zoonotic.

When your elderly cat’s nose stops bleeding, remove traces of dried blood with a damp cloth. The smell of blood may upset your cat. Your cat may also lick its nose and swallow blood.

It is possible that your cat swallowed blood. This will be visible in stool or any vomit that follows the nosebleed. Swallowed blood in a cat’s waste will appear as black specks.