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What catches people by surprise when a horse gets a nose bleed is how much blood the horse seems to be losing. The amount of blood makes owners very worried about the horse’s health. Through this article, we will explain why so much blood is being lost and what are common causes of nose bleeds in horses.
How Much Blood Does A Horse Have?
Let’s compare the horse’s cardiovascular system to that of a human. This way you will get a better understanding of what is going on inside your horse.
The amount of blood can vary depending on the size, weight, and age of a human, but let’s assume that the average human body has 5.5 liters of blood. To simplify this even further let’s break this down into gallons. 5.5 liters equal 1.4 gallons. So in other words, if you went to the store and brought two gallons of milk and then drank half a gallon, the milk that is left would be 1.5 gallons. That is how much blood an average human has in their body. Now let's compare that to a horse.
An adult horse on average has about 54 to 55 liters of blood. That comes out to about 14 gallons. So imagine going to the store and buying 14 gallons of milk. That is how much blood on average, a horse has.
A Horses Heart:
An average human heart at rest beats between 60 – 100 beats per minute. The heart on average will pump 4 – 5 liters of blood. So that means that it takes about one full minute for blood in humans to make one full circulation within the body.
A horse’s heart beats much slower than a human heart. On average a horse’s heart beats 32 to 36 times per minute. However, the force of a horse’s heartbeat is much stronger than that of a human. With each beat a horse heart pumps about a quart of blood. That means in four beats a horse’s heart pumps a gallon of blood. So in a minute, a horse heart will pump, about nine gallons of blood.
So what we can gather from all of this is that a horse’s nose bleed might look bad because they have so much more blood running through their system. I mean after all, they have ten times more blood than you have in your body.
How Much Blood Can A Horse Lose?
When a horse gets a bad nose bleed it seems like they lose a lot of blood. Even though they have ten times more blood than humans, you still might get concerned when you see the amount of blood that a nosebleed can cause. It is natural to still feel concerned about your horse.
A horse can lose 10-15 percent of its blood before it becomes a huge concern. So to put it another way, a horse can lose up to 2 gallons of blood before they show signs of blood loss.
Now stop and think about how much two gallons of blood is. It is like having two empty gallons of milk containers, feeling both of those containers up with water and add red food coloring to them. That is how much blood we are talking about. If you want a more accurate feel for how much blood to watch out for, take those two gallons, find an enclosed area, and begin dumping and spreading the fluids everywhere. Once you are done, then you should have a good picture of what you are looking for when it comes to your horse losing too much blood. You will be surprised how much two gallons actually is once it is all spread out and not bottled up.
If a horse loses between 15 – 30 percent of their blood, your horse will start to show signs of blood loss and start to go into shock. Some signs to look for include sweating that will cover the entire body of the horse. Also look for pale mucous membranes, weakness, and an elevated heart rate. If it looks like your horse is approaching this stage, and if you have not done so already, now would be a good time to call your local vet.
It is important to keep in mind that other things can cause an elevated heart rate in your horse besides blood loss. So keep that in mind as you are monitoring your horse.
Anything above 30 percent of blood loss will put your horse’s life in grave danger. It is very important to get your horse medical help before this stage of blood loss occur.
Things That Can Cause A Nose Bleed In A Horse!
There are actually quite a number of things that can cause a horse to experience a nose bleed. Most nose bleeds in horses are non life threatening, and will heal on their own.
When a horse runs for an extended period of time this might cause bleeding from the horse’s nostrils. This type of bleeding is not known to be harmful and will take care of itself without any treatment.
Superficial Scratches and Scrapes:
A nose bleed caused by a superficial scratch can be easy to spot and treat. Usually, they can be handled without the help of a vet. You can spot a nosebleed caused by a superficial scratch pretty easily. The blood that is coming from the horse’s nose is usually not coming from the horses nostril, but from a visible cut or scrape on the horse’s nose.
Causes: What causes a superficial cut on a horses nose can vary between many different things. Some of the most common reasons are:
Barbwire: If your horse in roaming in a pasture and is kept in by a barb wire fence, sometimes this can cause minor cuts as the horse tries to reach through the fence for green grass.
Wood Eating: Some horses like to chew on wood, slivers from the wood can cause minor scratches on your hose’s nose.
Other sharp object. Metal or sharp corners can be the cause of scratches or cuts on a horse’s nose.
What To Do: Usually no prevention is needed. The blood will stop and your horse’s nose will heal on its own. If the wound is deep or is a puncture wound, then infection becomes a concern. Make sure the wound is clean and properly bandage to minimize the chance of infection.
Dry Mucus Membrane:
Nosebleeds that are caused by dry nostrils or dry membranes in the nasal cavity. These types of nose bleeds are not life threatening to your horse and with a little time the nose bleed should heal on its own.
Causes: A horses nasal cavity is full of capillaries, which are tiny, thin, and very fragile. Dry air will dry out the nasal cavity and cause the capillaries to crack and then break. The severity of the nose bleed depends on how many capillaries are damaged. If your horse is kept indoors out of the weather, nosebleeds from dry air can become more common.
What to do: Usually no prevention is needed. The blood will stop and your horse’s nose will heal on its own. If you can keep the horse hydrated and make it so they are in moving air, then this can help prevent these type of nosebleeds.
This is a nosebleed that is caused by a foreign object becoming enlodged in the horses nasal cavity. The amount of blood depends on the object an the damage it has done.
Causes: A horse’s nose is very close to their mouth. If a horse is placed in a pasture that is unkempt, foreign objects can enter their noses as they graze. How bad the nose bleed is will depend on the amount of damage that was caused by the foreign object.
What to do: The horse might try and remove the foreign object itself by blowing mucus and air through their nostrils. If you can see the foreign object and know what it is, then you can try and remove it yourself. If you cannot see it and have no idea what it is, then it is best to contact your local vet for advice. You do not want to cause any more damage to your horse’s nasal cavity by trying to remove it yourself. Prevention would be the best step to take. Make sure that the area where your horse is kept is clean and free of any hazardous objects.
Respiratory Track Infections:
A respiratory Track Infection can be caused by a virus inside the horse. Mucus may be visibly present in your horse nasal cavity. This irritation can also be the cause of a nosebleed.
Causes: The mucus builds up and infection can lead to irritation within the horse’s nostrils. The horse will then attempt to get rid of the irritation and the increase in mucus. This may cause the capillaries within the nasal cavity to break, which will lead to a bloody nose.
What to do: The main thing here is not necessary to treat the bloody nose, but the respiratory infection that might be causing the bloody nose.
These types of nose bleeds can be severe. If your horse is experiencing a nose bleed because of physical trauma, then rapid bleeding may occur. These are the types of nose bleeds that you will want to keep an eye on.
Causes: Physical Trauma nose bleeds may be caused by a horse hitting the nasal cavity on a board. They may also be caused by other horses. If a horse is put into a pen with new horses, then fighting might occur which might lead to a horse’s nose bleed. Pretty much any blunt force applied to the horses nasal cavity can cause a severe nose bleed.
What Can Be Done For Your Horse.
Monitoring the horse is probably the best course of action. The nose bleed should begin to slow after 15 to 20 minutes. A lot of blood can be lost with this type of nose bleeds. A cool, wet cloth can be applied to the horse’s nose to try and slow the bleeding.
What Not To Do!!
You do not what to raise your horse’s heart rate. So stay away from things that might put the horse on edge. Some people want to isolate the horse from other horses. Doing so might cause the horse heart rate to go up. Also, depending on your horse it might not be the best idea to catch the horse. Some horses enter the flight mode when they think they are about ready to be caught. Once they enter the flight mode their heart rate will jump from 32 beats per minute to 240 beats a minute.
At this rate the horse is pushing 60 gallons of blood through their body per minute. This will only add to the amount of blood that is lost from the nosebleed.
The most important thing to do with any horse’s nose bleed is to keep the horse calm and its heart rate down. You know your horse better than anyone else. So you know what will set your horse off and what will keep him calm and relaxed. If you can keep your horse relaxed, then most nosebleeds will take care of themselves.