The word “bleeder” is used to describe a horse that bleeds from the nostrils during or after a period of hard work. This can be frightening for any horse owner, especially those who have never had a bleeder horse or heard of one before. The amount of blood varies a great deal from case to case, from just a small amount to a gushing of blood that may be life threatening.
- Bright red blood in one or both nostrils
- Bleeding from the lower airways due to exhaustive work or exercise (exercise induced pulmonary hemorrhage - EIPH)
- Ethmoid Hematoma (a growth in the back of the nose)
- A fungal infection in the guttural pouch (air-filled area in the skull behind the sinuses)
- Head trauma
If the bleeding occurs after stressful workouts (as with racehorses), an endoscopic exam should be performed. This test can diagnose EIPH. If the nasal bleeding happens spontaneously, head X-rays and even further tests such as MRIs may be needed to diagnose the cause.
Treatment can only be determined after the cause of the bleeding has been discovered, as there is no real treatment for the bleeding, only for the root cause of the bleeding itself.
Living and Management
Depending on the cause, different steps must be taken after treatment to ensure your horse is healthy and the bleeding stops. A horse with EIPH can usually be managed with certain medications and continue a successful athletic career. However, a horse with a fungal infection will require strong anti-fungal medications or even surgery to remove the infection.