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Ask the Vet: What Causes Sneezing Blood in Dogs?

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What Causes Sneezing Blood in Dogs

Sneezing blood in dogs can be something quite alarming for dog owners considering the amount of blood that may be dispersed with each sneeze. On top of that, the issue can be quite messy considering that the blood expelled by a forceful sneeze can easily stain carpets and upholstery in a matter of seconds. Sneezing blood in dogs is something that needs evaluation by the a veterinarian to determine the underlying cause. Veterinarian Dr. Ivana Crnec discusses what causes sneezing blood in dogs and what to do if your dog experiences a nosebleed.

What causes sneezing blood in dogs?

Sneezing blood in dogs requires veterinary investigation.

What Causes Sneezing Blood in Dogs?

Nosebleeds are often accompanied by sneezing in a "chicken or egg" fashion. Which comes first? Intense sneezing may cause a nosebleed, while a bleeding nose certainly stimulates sneezing. The possible causes of nosebleeds include:

  • Allergic rhinitis or hay fever
  • Infection of the nasal cavities and sinuses
  • Foreign objects
  • Polyps and tumors
  • Cleft palate and oral-nasal fistula

Taking a closer look into these conditions may come helpful.

Allergic Rhinitis in Dogs 

Overwhelmingly, the most common cause of abnormal nasal discharge is allergies. Nasal irritation due to an allergy is called allergic rhinitis. This condition may occur in response to a variety of substances, but grass seeds and pollens are among the most common causative agents. Therefore the resulting reaction is known as hay fever.

Allergic rhinitis produces a clear nasal discharge, often accompanied by sneezing and runny, itchy eyes. If left untreated, the lining of the nostrils can get damaged and its small blood vessels can tear thus leading to bloody discharge and sneezing blood.

Diagnosis of allergic rhinitis involves performing allergy tests such as ELISA. Treatment involves avoiding whatever causes the allergic nasal discharge is the treatment of choice but it is often extremely difficult to determine the cause or, once the problem has been identified, to avoid it. Allergic rhinitis is usually treated with antihistamine drugs.

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Infection of the Nasal Cavity and Sinuses

A bacterial, viral or fungal infection of the nasal cavity eventually produces a nasal discharge of mucus, pus or blood. If the infection spreads from the nasal cavity into the facial sinuses, a condition called sinusitis ensues. Infection involving the sinuses causes a nasal discharge into the back of the throat – so-called postnasal drip. Affected dogs may gag, retch and sneeze blood. There may be an accompanying foul odor.

Diagnosis requires a culture and sensitivity test of the discharge to identify the type of microorganisms involved. Bacterial nasal infections are treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics, usually for at least two weeks, while fungal infections are treated with oral antifungal medications for several months.

Chronic infections, especially if involving the sinuses, are often difficult to treat. In some severe cases, the nasal cavity of the affected sinus is opened surgically so that the area can be thoroughly cleansed.

Presence of Foreign Objects

Discharge from one nostril usually indicates there is something stuck in that nostril. Blades of grass and grass seeds are the most common foreign bodies found in the nostrils, but anything small enough to be sucked in through sniffing may cause a problem. A foreign object in a nostril usually causes paroxysm (a sudden, violent attack) of sneezing and pawing at the nose. The affected nostril may also bleed.

Diagnosis may sometimes require X-rays and scans to determine the cause of the discharge. An endoscope may be used to look for the foreign object.

Treatment: If you can see something protruding from your dog’s nostril, such as a blade of grass, carefully remove it with tweezers. If you cannot remove the object yourself, contact your vet. The vet may need to sedate or anesthetize the dog before attempting to extract the foreign object. Antibiotics may be prescribed to prevent infection.

Polyps and Tumors

Polyps and tumors can develop inside the nostrils. A polyp is an enlargement of a nasal mucus-producing gland and is not cancerous. On the other hand, most nasal tumors are cancerous and tend to be fast-growing.

Both nasal polyps in dogs and tumors cause a discharge or bleeding from the nostril, accompanied by bloody sneezing and noisy breathing. A tumor may also result in a bulge on the affected side of the nose and obstruction to the airflow.

Diagnosis requires X-rays and endoscopy to look for an abnormal growth. A sample of tissue is usually taken from a tumor and examined to determine whether it is cancerous.

Treatment: Polyps are surgically removed, although these growths have a tendency to recur, requiring further treatment. All tumors, whether cancerous or not are surgically removed. If a tumor is found to be cancerous, radiotherapy may also be recommended.

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Cleft Palate and Oral-Nasal Fistula

A pup that sneezes or has nasal discharge after eating may have a cleft palate (a defect in which the two sides of the palate have not been fused by birth) leaving an open passageway between the mouth and the nasal cavity. The passing food particles may damage the fragile blood vessels in the nose thus leading to sneezing blood. Breeds particularly prone to inherited cleft palate include Beagles, Boston Terriers, Bulldogs, Cocker Spaniels, Miniature Schnauzers and Pekingese dogs.

Older dogs with severe tooth decay may also develop an oral-nasal fistula (a canal joining the mouth and nasal cavity) when one of the upper canine teeth or premolars is just lost through infection, injury or surgery.

Diagnosis: In both cases, physical examination is enough to set the diagnosis. For both cleft palate and oral-nasal fistula, the abnormal channel is surgically repaired.

First Aid for a Dog's Nose Bleed

When dealing with a nosebleed it is important to keep your dog quiet and confined. Apply a cold compress (in an emergency you can use a bag of frozen peas) for about five minutes to the top of the nose, between the eyes and nostrils. Meanwhile, cover the bleeding nostril with absorbent material and try to calm and soothe your dog if it is distressed.

If the bleeding does not stop within a few minutes, and especially if the cause of the nosebleed is unknown, contact your trusted vet as soon as possible. Do not muzzle your dog or tilt its head back to prevent blood from dripping out of the nostrils in addition, do not attempt to pack the bleeding nostril with cotton or gauze because this action is very likely to stimulate sneezing and further exacerbation of the situation.

About the Author

ivana crnec

Dr. Ivana Crnec is a graduate of the University Sv. Kliment Ohridski’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola, Republic of Macedonia. She currently practices as a veterinarian in Bitola and is completing her postgraduate studies in the Pathology of Domestic Carnivores at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Zagreb, Croatia.

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