Effective First Aid When Your Dog Has a Bloody Nose
If your dog has a bloody nose use the first aid described below to stop it immediately. Get your dog into the vet right away to find out what is causing it and prevent it happening again to your already weakened dog.
First Aid for a Dog with a Bloody Nose
- Keep calm. If you are stressed out and yelling or crying your dog is going to be jumping around, upset, and the bleeding will be that much more severe.
- Go to your refrigerator and take out an ice pack. (Even though gel packs are not part of your first aid kit, these are cheap and you should keep a few in your refrigirator.) Find a hand towel or dishcloth. If you do not have an ice pack available, or if you have a small dog, take some ice cubes and wrap them in the hand towel.
- Sit down on the floor with your dog, put his head on your lap, and calm him down. (If he bleeds on your clothes do not worry about it. The blood will come out later, before you wash, with hydrogen peroxide.) Lift his gums up casually and check his color.
- Hold his head up and wrap the towel (with ice pack or ice cubes) on the bridge of his nose. The ice should not go directly on his skin, and the towel definitely should not be covering up his nose! It is hard enough for him to breathe with blood in his nose. Do not make it any worse.
- Check the capillary refill time (CRT), and watch to see if the bleeding slows or stops. To check his CRT, apply pressure on his mucus membranes for about 5 seconds and see if the blood goes back to the pale spot. If it does not, or goes back only slowly, he has lost a lot of blood.
- If the bleeding will not stop with external cooling/internal clotting, you can try and pack the bleeding nostril or nostrils with cotton. Some dogs will allow this, some will whip their head around and start pawing at their face, making things even worse. Also remember that he will have to breathe through his mouth, so let him pant if he wants to.
- If you have an emergency veterinarian available, go ahead and take your dog there. Although you do not need to bother calling for an appointment, you should call to let them know you are on the way. At the emergency clinic your dog may need fluids, platelets, or even a transfusion.
- If you do not have a veterinarian available, keep him as calm as possible and if a clot forms in the nose it will temporarily stop the bleeding. Get him to your vet as soon as possible; in the meantime you should have activated charcoal in your first aid kit, and, just in case your dog has been exposed to rat poison, you can give him activated charcoal at a dose of 5 grams per 4 kg (about 10 pounds) of body weight . (If your dog has an infection, a foreign body, or any of the other causes of a nose bleed, this will not help. If the blood has clotted and the dog thrashes around when you try to give the activated charcoal, just stop.)
Now that you have things under control, how about finding out what caused the bout of epistaxis (bloody nose)?
Causes of a Bloody Nose in your Dog
Very Young Dog
Inherited bleeding disease
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever or Ehrlichia (ticks)
Trauma (hit by car, dog fight, etc)
Kidney or liver failure
Foreign body (foxtail, etc)
Medication (Aspirin, etc)
Finding out what is wrong with your dog
Some cases are obvious—I examined a dog that ran through a sliding glass door and after repairing the trauma to the nose the bleeding stopped. Sometimes things are hard to determine, so, after your dog has been examined, the lab tests that might be necessary to determine why your dog has a bloody nose are:
- If there is not an obvious cause (like trauma, a tumor, or a foreign body), the veterinarian may take blood for a CBC (for diseases spread by ticks, some types of hemophilia, and some types of infection) and chemistry (to check for kidney failure and to check the liver).
- A coagulation profile might need to be done, especially for young purebred Dobermans, Airedales, Scotties, German Shepherd Dogs, and some other breeds.
- Bacterial or fungal testing if an infection is suspected.
- An older dog might also need chest x-rays to find out if his cancer has spread to his lungs.
- An x-ray of the head might show a tumor or trauma that you did not know about and the vet could not see.
- A test for lupus may need to be done if other symptoms fit.
Will my dog get better?
Treatment, and your dog´s chances of getting better after the incident, really depends on what caused it in the first place. Some dogs will get well as soon as the NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like aspirin) are stopped and the primary problem is taken care of. Rat poisoning, an infection, and even a rotten tooth are a lot easier to take care of than a cancer, especially if it has already spread.
Take the time to diagnose the problem. It may not be easy, or cheap, to find out what is wrong, but the results are often worth it.
This time your dog might be fine--the next time your dog may not live through the nose bleed.
Do you perform a DIY physical exam to find problems with your dog before they happen?
- Do It Yourself At Home Physical Exam for Your Dog
You should be aware of what your dogs normal heart rate, the color of his mucus membranes, etc. If your dog has a bloody nose, you can only help if you are used to seeing him healthy. Learn how to exam your dog at home.
Questions & Answers
My dog hit his nose on a brick and started bleeding by 2:00 am and there’s no vet doctor that I can call; what can I do to make it stop until tomorrow?
Use the ice packs as described in the article. If you do not have ice packs available you can also use ice wrapped up in a washcloth, or even a bag of frozen vegetables like peas or corn.