Hiccups can happen in dogs just as they do in humans. It can be disconcerting the first time that you see or hear your puppy hiccup after a meal, but it is rarely a cause for concern. Hiccups are perfectly normal for your dogs and people. So why do dogs get hiccups? Read on to learn what causes hiccups and how to help your dog through them. Also, how to determine if something else is going on to cause them.
What Is a Hiccup?
Anyone who has seen a puppy with hiccups may have wondered what is going on with my dog! Hiccups are a physiological response.
The diaphragm is the skeletal muscle that separates your puppy’s chest from its abdomen. When the puppy inhales, the diaphragm moves down as it contracts. This creates room in your puppy’s chest cavity for its lungs to expand as they fill with air.
Conversely, when your puppy exhales, the diaphragm relaxes, which allows it to move back up again. Most of the time, these movements are smooth, and even; air just comes in and goes out. However, when the diaphragm spasms suddenly, it causes a hiccup.
In addition to the spasm, you will hear a “hic” sound as the contractions occur. It can be disconcerting the first time that you see it, but once you realize that it is normal most of the time, it is endearing.
What Causes Dogs to Hiccup?
Dogs get hiccups for a lot of different reasons. Both puppies and adult dogs can get them, but puppies tend to get them more frequently.
The main reason why they get them is from gulping down their food or drinking too fast. This happens because they swallow air when they inhale their food or water.
Dogs also can get hiccups when they are overly excited or stressed out. In addition, inhaling an irritant such as second-hand smoke can bring them on.
Puppies tend to eat more vigorously than adult dogs, and this possibly answers the question of why they get hiccups more frequently. Whether your puppy or your adult dog has a bout of the hiccups after a meal or after getting excited, this is not something to fret over.
When Are Hiccups a Sign of a Problem?
Although hiccups are almost always no cause for concern and will clear up on their own, they might be a sign of a problem if they occur in conjunction with other symptoms.
If your dog is experiencing a combination of hiccups and another symptom, you should see your vet.
Hiccups and Respiratory Problems: If your dog has the hiccups and is having trouble breathing, this could be a sign of something serious. Make sure that your dog’s breathing hasn’t changed. If your dog is coughing, has nasal discharge, or is repeatedly sneezing along with the hiccups, this fits in the same category.
Your dog should not have labored breathing from hiccups; if you notice any of these signs along with hiccups, it could indicate a respiratory problem, and you need to go to the vet.
Hiccups and Parasites: In some cases, hiccups can be a sign of a parasite problem. Certain types of worms, such as heartworms or tapeworms, can cause respiratory problems. The larvae from these worms will take up residence in the dog’s respiratory system and this can cause hiccups along with diarrhea and vomiting. If your dog has continuous or frequent hiccups and you suspect worms, go to your vet.
Hiccups and Gastrointestinal Problems: If your dog has gastrointestinal problems, the symptoms are similar to a parasite problem. You will notice that your dog has diarrhea or is vomiting, and it may have blood in its stool. You should go to the vet. Gastrointestinal problems are often treatable, but you need to go to the vet to do so.
Signs That Hiccups Are a Problem
Although hiccups are almost always nothing to worry about, they can be a sign of something more. Vets have found that hiccups may indicate bronchitis or pneumonia and they can be an underlying sign of a heart problem.
If your dog’s hiccups are a symptom of a bigger problem, they will almost always be accompanied by other symptoms.
Look out for the following:
- The hiccups last more than a few hours
- Your dog appears to be in distress
- The hiccups occur frequently
- The sound is more of a wheezing sound
- Your dog has difficulty breathing
- There seems to be a loss of appetite
- Your dog is lethargic
- The dog is experiencing constipation or diarrhea
- Your dog is vomiting
What Is Reverse Sneezing?
Sometimes people confuse reverse sneezing with hiccups, although they are two different things. Reverse sneezing is relatively frequent in dogs, and it is caused by irritation to the nasopharynx.
When a dog reverse sneezes, it stands up and extends its head and neck. Then it inhales through its nose forcefully a few times. It sounds similar to snorting, and it only lasts ten to fifteen seconds.
How to Help Your Dog Through Hiccups
Hiccups usually go away on their own without any intervention. However, there are many theories about how to get rid of them. You shouldn’t try to scare your dog or try any of the old wives’ tales that you may have heard about how to cure human hiccups. However, there are a few things that you can try.
First, you can get your puppy or adult dog to lie down next to you. Help its breathing pattern become more relaxed by getting to lay calmly beside you. Petting your dog will also help to relax them. This may work well if your puppy has acquired the hiccups from being overly excited.
Another way to help is to get your dog to have a drink of water. Dogs will often take a drink immediately after you get a fresh bowl of water for them so you can dump out the water and refill it.
You can also try to distract your dog from the hiccups. Take it outside in the yard or play with a toy. Similar to people, if you find a way to take your dog’s mind off the hiccups, they will resolve on their own.
You can offer your dog a sweet treat, such as a drop of honey or maple syrup. Just make sure that you avoid giving your dog anything that is sugar-free. Sugar-free products often have xylitol in them, which can be very dangerous to dogs.
When the hiccups just won’t go away, you might consider taking your dog for a walk. It will change the dog’s breathing rate and get its blood flowing. These changes can bring the hiccups to a close.
How to Prevent Hiccups
Although hiccups are a physiological reaction, you can do a few things to prevent hiccups in your puppy. The primary cause of hiccups is eating or drinking too quickly and this is something that you can teach your dog not to do.
You can break your puppy’s meals into smaller portions more frequently throughout the day. If your puppy is getting fed more frequently, it may not feel the need to gulp down its food so quickly. You can also sit beside your puppy and teach it to slow down.
You might want to talk to your vet about changing your dog to a low-grain diet. High-grain food can cause hiccups in some dogs so if your dog often gets the hiccups after eating, a low-grain diet might be the solution.
In addition, make sure that your dog is getting enough exercise. If your dog has a lot of energy and hiccups are brought on by excitement, you may need to help your dog burn some of that energy off. You can try increasing the time you play in the yard with your dog or go for more walks in the day. If your dog burns off some of that energy exercising, it may not get overly excited.
The Bottom Line
When people first see their dogs with the hiccups, they ask, “Why do dogs get hiccups?” Often they are worried that it isn’t healthy. Dogs, as with all mammals, get hiccups when the diaphragm suddenly contracts. The physiological reaction is the same as what happens to humans when they hiccup.
If your dog has the hiccups, it shouldn’t last very long. It is most frequently caused by eating or drinking too quickly or getting overly excited. However, if your dog has other symptoms at the same time, you should have your vet check it out. Make sure that your dog isn’t having trouble breathing or having diarrhea or vomiting.
If you want to help your dog through the hiccups, you can have it sit calmly beside you while you rub its belly. Try offering it a fresh drink of water or take it outside for a walk. The hiccups should resolve within less than a few hours.
If your dog regularly inhales its food, you can try breaking its meals down into smaller portions more frequently throughout the day. You can work with your dog to encourage it to eat more slowly.
So do dogs do get the hiccups? The answer is yes, but they are usually no cause for concern.