Nosebleed Knowhow

A nosebleed occurs when any part of the nasal passages (nose, throat and lungs) is damaged, it is a very vascular area so can bleed a lot. A nosebleed is definitely time to call you vet, but quite often as owners we dismiss a minor nosebleed. Even a trickle of blood should be noted and discussed with your vet.

So what should you do if your horse has a nosebleed and what are some of the likely causes? Read on to find out how to assess a nosebleed and how not to panic.

My horse has had a nosebleed, what should I do?

Firstly, sssess the nosebleed

Questions to consider are:

  • 1.   Is the horse bleeding from one nostril or two?
  • 2.   How much blood is there?
  • 3.   Is the blood dripping slowly or rapidly?
  • 4.   Would it fill a mug or a bucket?

Blood loss (whether from a wound or a nosebleed) can be very alarming for an owner, but it is worth bearing in mind that horses do have a lot of blood.

Secondly, has this happened before?

Repeated nosebleeds (even if quite minor) must not be ignored and you should seek further veterinary advice.

Thirdly, is there an obvious cause?

Often a nosebleed is caused by trauma, so it is helpful to tell your vet whether you observed an incident that could have caused the nosebleed. This could be a bang to the head as a result of a fall, or perhaps you noticed your horse have an accident in the field.

One Nostril or Two

A nosebleed from one nostril

With a nosebleed in one nostril, the likely cause is trauma with the horse banging or knocking his face on something in the stable or field. A nosebleed is common after a gastroscopy or a nasal-gastric tube is passed. A tumour in the nasal passage is another possible cause, hence why a nosebleed shouldn’t be ignored.

A progressive ethmoid haematoma (a lump in the nose) like a giant blood blister can also cause a nosebleed, although this is quite rare.

Guttural pouch mycosis (GPM) can also cause repeated nosebleeds from one nostril. This is a serious condition and can be fatal, hence nosebleeds should never be ignored. The guttural pouches are located in the throatlash region and can house bacteria such as Streptococcus equi equi which causes strangles.

GPM is a fungal infection where fungal plaque forms on the walls of major blood vessels. The walls of these blood vessels become eroded resulting in haemorrhage, hence the severity of the condition, and why nosebleeds should never be ignored. An endoscopy is required to assess the extent of damage.

A nosebleed from two nostrils 

A nosebleed in both nostrils generally stems from the lungs, and Exercise Induced Pulmonary Haemorrhage (EIPH) is a likely cause.

EIPH is common in racehorses, polo ponies and eventers, i.e. horses working at maximal levels, and it is less likely to occur in leisure horses. The exact cause is not known, it is thought that the changes in pressure in intense exercise cause capillaries in the lungs to rupture.

Coping with an equine emergency

It is essential to stay calm and not panic. This is easier said than done if you can’t cope, enlist someone calm to help you.

Put human safety as the priority, if you are injured you can’t help your horse, and this will simply delay treatment to your horse.

Repeated nosebleeds should not be ignored (however small) and you should always seek veterinary advice.

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