Can Dogs Get Hiccups?
By Chyrle Bonk, DVM July 28, 2020
The first time you saw your dog hiccup, it may have startled you or made you smile. Either way, it’s important to know that hiccups aren’t something to worry about most of the time, and it seems that they are less annoying to dogs than they are to humans. However, if your dog’s hiccups are accompanied by other strange symptoms or you just don’t like seeing your dog act out of the ordinary, then there are some things that can help.
Can Dogs Get Hiccups?
Dogs can experience hiccups similar to humans. While having the hiccups usually provides us with a little comic relieve or cuteness overload, there is usually nothing to worry about. However, there are times when hiccups can be a sign of a more serious medical condition.
What Do Dog Hiccups Look And Sound Like?
Hiccups in dogs look and sound similar to those in humans. You will usually see a slight spasm of their tummy and they may open their mouth like a burp. Sometimes you will even be able to hear the hic sound. Puppies will experience hiccups more frequently and each hiccup may rock their entire body.
What Causes Hiccups In Dogs?
Hiccups occur when the diaphragm involuntarily spasms. The diaphragm is a muscle under our lungs that helps with breathing. Normally, the diaphragm works in a smooth fashion, contracting as your dog breathes in to allow space in the chest for air and then relaxing to help expel the air from the lungs. When the diaphragm spasms, it moves in a herky-jerky motion causing the opening between the vocal cords and the glottis to snap shut to make the hic sound.
So, why would a dog’s diaphragm go into involuntary spasms? There may be a number of reasons. The most common culprit is swallowing too much air. This can happen with a dog eats or drinks too fast, is nervously or excitedly panting, breathing rapidly following exercise or play, or after inhaling something that’s irritating.
Puppies tend to get hiccups more often than adult dogs. This may be a residual action from their days in the womb. Before puppies are born, they commonly have hiccups, perhaps as a way of preparing their lungs for the outside world. Once they are born, their body may still go through those motions until they eventually grow out of it. Puppies may also hiccup when they are tired or cold, possibly because their organs and biological systems are still developing and as a way for them to relieve gas.
How Can You Help Your Dog Get Rid Of Hiccups?
Most of the time, your dog’s hiccupping spell will only last for a couple of minutes and they usually aren’t too bothered by it. However, most dog parents will still want to try to help. Usually, all it takes is a change in their breathing rates to get things back on the right track. A few things you can try are as follows:
- Slow them down
You can try to regulate their breathing by having them lie down on their back for a tummy rub or on their side for a little quiet time.
- Exercise it out
Increasing their activity level can help get the diaphragm back in rhythm as well. Take them out for a quick walk or game of fetch to get their heart and respiratory rate up.
- Give them food or water
Eating or drinking will interrupt your dog’s breathing pattern, giving the diaphragm a chance to get back in sync. You can offer them a quick treat or some water with a little enticer in it like chicken broth. Some even suggest that you offer them something sweet, like corn syrup, maple syrup or honey, as these treats are hard to resist.
Again, most of the time your dog’s hiccups will go away on their own with a little bit of patience, but it may be fun to try any one of these possible remedies.
Situations When Your Dog Hiccups
Let’s look in further detail at some of the situations in which a dog may have the hiccups and if there is anything to worry about.
- Hiccups while sleeping
You may have experienced seeing your dog dream about chasing an animal while they actually whimper and paddle their legs. Well, all of that dreamland excitement also alters their respiratory pattern, possibly leading to hiccups.
- Hiccups after eating
This one is most likely brought on by a dog figuratively inhaling their food. Most of the time, they’re eating so fast that they didn’t even chew their food. The food goes down in great gulps and brings excess air into the stomach, which the body tries to remove by hiccupping. Hiccups after eating and drinking is something that you may want to decrease since eating this quickly also increases the risk of aspiration pneumonia, a dangerous situation when food, water, or saliva gets into the airways and lungs.
- Hiccups and vomiting
Occasionally, a dog’s hiccupping can become so severe that they can actually retch or vomit due to pressure on the stomach. They may also be hiccupping as a way to release excess gas caused by a digestive issue. Other symptoms may include diarrhea, bloating, and a decreased appetite.
- Hiccups and irregular breathing
Hiccups may sometimes be the start of something more serious in your dog’s respiratory system. Anytime your dog’s hiccups are accompanied by difficult or irregular breathing, you could be dealing with asthma, pneumonia, a respiratory irritant, or inflammation around the heart. Asthma occurs when the airways inside the lungs spasm making it difficult to inhale air. Pneumonia is when parts of the lung fill with fluid either related to an infection or inhalation of a foreign substance. Inhaling things like toxins, grass seeds, or allergens can set off a hiccupping frenzy as well.
How Do You Prevent Your Dog From Having Hiccups?
Since hiccupping is usually the result of swallowing excess air, slowing your dog down from the activity that is causing the hiccups in the first place will usually help prevent them. For dogs that inhale their food and water, try feeding smaller portions more frequently or getting a slow-feeder type dish. These dishes have obstacles such as ridges or bumps to make dogs work for their kibble preventing them from gulping down mouthfuls of food at one time. You can also look into food dispensing puzzles that only allow one or two kibbles out at a time.
You’ll want to leave water available for your dog at all times. So having a water dispenser that can hold enough water for the day will be ideal. Look for a water bowl with a smaller opening that is supposed to help reduce mess or a fountain style water dispenser that makes it difficult for your pup to gulp down large amounts of water and air at once.
You may also want to try altering your exercise routine for longer less intense periods instead of short bursts that causes your dog to gasp for breath. But, by no means does this mean that you should stop playing with your dog, just find ways that won’t cause them to gulp down air.
When Should You Be Worried About Your Dog Having Hiccups?
Most dogs are only going to have the hiccups for a couple of minutes and then continue on their way. However, if those hiccupping sessions are coming on more frequently or lasting for an hour or more, it may be time to ask your veterinarian. In rare occasions, hiccupping can be associated with respiratory issues, heart conditions, or even heat stroke.
Other causes for concern are when those hiccups turn from little innocent blips to irregular or difficulty breathing. When a dog is having irregular or difficulty breathing, their chest will expand larger than normal when they try to inhale and they may gasp for air. They may also pant heavily and even turn blue in the tongue if severe enough.
Another concerning issue is if your dog starts to wheeze or cough when they hiccup or if hiccups become severe enough to cause vomiting.
A hiccupping puppy is one of the cuter things in life, and even hiccupping in an adult dog is something that we all should see. Since hiccupping in dogs is no big deal most of the time, it’s fine for us to sit back and enjoy. However, it’s still important to know that hiccups in dogs aren’t always innocent. For some dog parents, hiccupping isn’t something they want their pups to go through. Because of this, it’s important for all of us to know how to be able to calm your dog’s hiccups and know if something more serious is occurring.