Dogs can at times sneeze quite violently, but seeing a dog sneezing blood can be quite a scary sight for dog owners to experience. The presence of blood or blood clots in dog sneeze can come totally unexpected and can be understandably disconcerting for the dog owners, especially considering the fact that sneezing blood is quite an unusual happening in the human world. The event may be a solitary one, hopefully one that is never going to present again, or more concerning, it may repeat, either the same day or at another time, something which warrants veterinary evaluation to determine what is causing a dog to sneeze blood clots in the first place.
Presence of Foreign Object
Dogs don’t typically stick things up their noses as children do, but sometimes something may be breathed in when dogs go on their sniffing adventures.
One common foreign item that is likely to end up a dog’s nose is burr, also known as a fox tail. Whether a fox tail or an awn, anything that ends up stuck in a dog’s nostril will likely cause violent and repeated sneezing, as the body attempts to dislodge it.
Sadly, burrs are not always dislodged this way, and the affected dog may require veterinary intervention.
If you live in an area where there are fox tails and it’s that time of the year when they are getting stuck in clothes and on your dog’s coat, suspect that one of these pesky awns caught in your dog’s nostril.
Did you know? The inside of a dog’s nose is very vascular in nature and this makes it particularly prone to bleeding when irritated.
Other Causes of Irritation
Anything that can cause irritation to the dog’s nasal passages and subsequent sneezing can trigger a bout of violent sneezing. This repeated, violent sneezing may cause the dog to break some capillaries which causes the accompanying droplets of blood. It’s therefore important identifying what may be causing the violent sneezing in the first place.
Fungal or bacterial infections may trigger sneezing, and just a little bit of blood sprayed out along with the sneeze is not unusual with an upper respiratory infection as the nasal passages get irritated. Same goes with mild cases of rhinitis, the inflammation of the nose.
An antibiotic is often prescribed by vets if there is suspicion for a secondary infection. Sometimes a a sharp pine needle can be accidentally inhaled and cause a little puncture wound that causes irritation, and, even though not very common, sometimes the presence of nasal mites may even be a culprit!
A Tooth Root Problem
It may seem odd that a tooth could cause a violent bout of sneezing with a bit of blood, but it makes sense if we take a closer look at dog anatomy.
Some teeth on the dog’s upper jaw have very long roots and some of them can even extend into the dog’s nasal sinuses. When a dog develops what’s known as a tooth root abscess, the infection can spread to the dog’s nasal passages causing sneezing and nose bleeds.
Many small dog breeds have very crowded teeth, all concentrated in their tiny jaws and this over crowding can predispose them to teeth problems.
A Blood Clotting Problem
Any time unexplained bleeding occurs in a dog, one must suspect a blood clotting problem. The blood may be collecting under the skin, it might be expelled in feces, it may be vomited or it may come out with a sneeze. In this case, rather than the blood coming out due to repeated sneezing, the trickle of blood is likely to cause the bout of sneezing.
Normally, a blood clotting disorder causes blood to come out from both nostrils (bilateral epistaxis) versus only one nostril as common with a foreign item. Sometimes. by looking at the appearance of the blood sneezed out, one can obtain some deduction: if the dogs sneezes visible blood clots, there are chances this might not be the problem since the blood is clotted.
Blood clotting problems can be indicative of liver disease, autoimmune disease or tick-borne diseases. Affected dogs often show other signs such as lethargy and pale mucous membranes.
Another possible cause of a blood clotting problem is exposure to rat poison. Rat poison has anticoagulant properties for the purpose of letting rats bleed to death. If ingested by a dog in less than two hours, there are chances that inducing vomiting in the dog can help his body get rid of the harmful toxins. If your dog ate rat poison, consult with your vet for directions.
A Possible Sign of Cancer
It’s unfortunate, but a possible cause for a dog sneezing blood and having frequent nose bleeds is cancer of the nose. Nose cancer is mostly found in middle-aged to senior long-nosed dogs (dolicocephalic), most likely because the longer the nose, the more cells and higher chances for cancer.
Affected dogs have a history of sneezing, nasal discharge and bleeding from one nostril (epistaxis). Because of this possibility, it’s important to see a veterinarian if your dog has a history of showing these symptoms.
Sometimes nose cancer is discovered when dog owners are told to provide antibiotics to see if the sneezing and bleeding is due to an upper respiratory infection, but unfortunately the sneezing with blood doesn’t subside. Nose cancer in dogs is managed through pain control and radiation therapy (for those who can afford it).
Stopping the Bleeding
If your dog is sneezing blood, you are rightfully concerned, and may wonder how you can stop your dog from sneezing blood. Stopping the sneezing in the first place is paramount.
Just like you are told not to blow your nose when your nose is bleeding, your dog should be prevented from sneezing, but this is easier said than done when the sneezing is due to an underlying problem that needs addressed!
If the sneezing fit has stopped, but your dog’s nose is still bleeding, here’s something that you can do.
Just like in people, you can try applying some cold compresses to your dog’s nose in hopes of constricting those blood vessels and getting the bleeding to stop.
Another way to constrict blood vessels in dogs experiencing nose bleeds is using over the counter human nose drops containing the active ingredient “phenylephrine.” You can place a few drops in your dog’s nostril on the side that is bleeding, suggests veterinarian Dr. Gabby. This should trigger vasoconstriction and stop the bleeding. Consult with your vet for directions.
And of course, you must keep your dog as still and calm as possible. Moving about or getting anxious will only make things worse considering that the blood pressure will rise which increase the chances for bleeding.
Generally, just a few droplets of blooding coming out of a sneeze isn’t an emergency, but if the blood keeps dripping and flowing, it’s important to see the vet. Also, consider your dog’s size, a small dog weighing under 10 pounds can suffer the effects of blood loss faster than a large dog weighing more than 100 pounds!
“Usually this is not a true emergency meaning it is not likely immediately life threatening… It is very rare that dogs will bleed to death out of their nose unless it is streaming heavily.”~Dr. Dan
What to Expect at the Vet
If your dog has been sneezing blood, your vet may run several diagnostic tests to try to get to the root of the problem. Some basic blood work and perhaps a blood clotting test is carried out if the dog is sneezing blood frequently from both nostrils or it’s in copious amounts. By checking the dog’s clotting times, the vet can determine whether the blood is clotting normally or not.
Checking the nose may seem like an easy task just tilt the dog’s nose up and look inside, but for a thorough inspection the vet will have to rely on other means. Nasal x-rays require the dog to stay extra still and in a particular position, which is not very easy to accomplish, and thus, requires sedation or general anesthesia.
Rhinoscopy, a procedure where a vet puts a scope up the nose to check for presence of tumors or foreign objects, as well requires a general anesthetic. If needed, biopsies may also be taken during this procedure.
If the vet suspects a dental problem, a mouth inspection can provide some information. A dental x-ray though may be needed and this also requires a general anesthetic.
If the vet suspects possible nasal cancer, a CT scan can provide insights about tumor staging. X-rays are often not conclusive, they may exclude certain types of cancer but not all considering that they do not show much about information about soft tissue changes.
- J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2007 Dec 15;231(12):1843-50.Prevalence, clinical features, and causes of epistaxis in dogs: 176 cases (1996-2001).Bissett SA1, Drobatz KJ, McKnight A, Degernes LA.
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