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Hiccups occur when involuntary muscle spasms in the diaphragm, a muscle that aids in respiration, cause the glottis (the opening between the vocal cords) to close quickly over and over again. This rapid action leads to the all-too-common hiccup sound.
So, do dogs get hiccups? Yes, they do. Like humans, dogs can experience hiccups. In most cases, hiccups do not indicate that your dog has a health problem.
That said, you should monitor your dog during and after a hiccup episode to determine if any signs of poor health such as dizziness, shallow or rapid breathing, loss of balance or inability to walk, or any other behavior that seems irregular for your dog has occurred.
Why Do Dogs Get Hiccups?
Experts cannot pinpoint the exact scientific reasons why dogs (or humans) get hiccups. One theory suggests that fetal hiccups, which occur in utero, allow the growing fetus to test breathing muscles as these muscles develop. Post-birth hiccups serve no real purpose, but may still occur well into adulthood.
Common causes for hiccups include:
- Eating food or drinking water too quickly
- Sudden increase in excitement or stress
- Vigorous play (with either a human or another dog)
Your dog may also experience hiccups to help relieve an upset stomach or to release excess gas.
Extreme hot and cold temperatures can cause dogs to hiccup more often, though the reasons why temperature plays a role in causing hiccups remain unknown.
How Often Do Dogs Get Hiccups?
Puppies get hiccups more often than adult dogs as they typically eat and drink quickly. Eating food and drinking water quickly can cause an energetic puppy to swallow air at a very fast rate, which may lead to hiccups.
Puppies also tend to play more and may experience increased instances of excitement and stress as compared to adult dogs.
However, adult dogs have hiccups on occasion. Some dog breeds do not handle stressful or excitable situations well, which can lead to hiccups. Dogs with food allergies may have excess gas or experience frequent upset stomachs as compared to other dogs.
Like puppies, some adult dogs may also eat food and drink water too fast.
Puppies and dogs can get hiccups at any time during the day. Some dogs experience hiccups even when they nap or sleep.
Don’t disturb your dog if they hiccup while napping – the hiccups should go away after a few minutes. Startling your dog out of a deep sleep could prolong the hiccups.
What Can I Do to Get Rid of My Dog’s Hiccups?
During a hiccup episode, try to keep your dog calm by rubbing its belly or its chest. Hiccups usually only last a few minutes so if you remain calm, hopefully, your dog will remain calm too until the episode passes.
For dogs that get stressed during a hiccup episode, light play can help distract your dog until the episode ends.
Another way to stop hiccups – get your dog to drink some water. Sweeten the water with a little sugar or syrup to encourage drinking. You can also feed your dog a small spoonful of sugar or syrup as a ‘treat’ to help keep your dog calm.
Avoid giving your dog a biscuit or hard cookie as these treats could cause your dog to choke during a hiccup episode.
Other than comforting or playing with your dog, there isn’t much you can do about hiccups.
What Can I Do to Prevent or Limit Hiccups?
To help prevent or limit hiccups, monitor your dog’s behavior. If you have a puppy, provide puppy food that’s appropriate for the dog’s age and breed. As your puppy grows, make sure the food you provide has the vitamins, protein, and other nutrients needed to keep your dog happy and healthy.
If your dog eats too fast, consider breaking up large meals into smaller ones to give throughout the day. If your dog drinks water too fast, fill up your dog’s water bowl only a quarter to halfway to limit liquid intake at any one time. Refill the water bowl as needed to ensure your dog gets enough water during the day.
If your dog has a food allergy, provide food that does not contain that particular ingredient. Food allergies can cause excess gas and stomach problems. Talk with your dog’s vet to learn more about food allergies as these allergies can take a long time to properly diagnose.
Since puppies have a tendency to run, jump, and wrestle a lot more than adult dogs throughout the day, puppies typically swallow more air. Increased air intake can cause hiccups.
And while you want to encourage your puppy to play, you can reduce the length of time for these play sessions and enforce frequent breaks. This should lessen the frequency of hiccups.
What Causes a Reverse Sneeze?
Many pet owners confuse a hiccup with a reverse sneeze. To clear out sinus passages, your dog may start inhaling very quickly and loudly. This involuntary action helps get rid of any mucus buildup. Your dog may also reverse sneeze when excited.
In most cases, a reverse sneeze, much like hiccups, does not indicate a serious health issue.
When do I Need to Call a Vet?
Frequent or persistent hiccups and reverse sneezing could indicate a serious health issue such as pneumonia, asthma, or a stroke. If a hiccup episode lasts for more than 60 minutes (very rare) or is accompanied by vomiting, you should contact your dog’s veterinarian.
Other health concerns associated with hiccups in combination with other issues like a reverse sneeze, vomiting, or constipation include worm and parasite infestations.
Most puppies have these types of infestations that you can easily cure by administering an over-the-counter medication specifically made for killing worms and parasites. Contact your dog’s vet to learn more about the medications available for this issue.
So, can dogs get hiccups? Yes, hiccups will probably occur sporadically throughout your dog’s lifetime. Unless your dog has specific health issues that hiccups can make worse, or you notice abnormal behavior during or after a hiccup episode, you don’t need to contact the vet.
Maintain a steady routine, play with your dog often, and monitor its food and water intake – these things help ensure your dog has a healthy, safe, and fun life.