Dog Hiccups: What Causes Them, When To Worry, & How To Stop Them
Remember how cute it was when your new baby girl got the hiccups? Simply adorable. When you’re an adult, hiccups aren’t as adorable, especially when they’re big ones that last forever or when you’re about to give an important presentation at work.
Dog owners know that hiccups can also develop in their canine pets. It looks and sounds kind of goofy but is there more at play? More importantly, is there cause for concern? Let’s first look at what we’re dealing with.
What causes a dog to hiccup?
In medical-speak, hiccups are involuntary contractions of the diaphragm. We know that the diaphragm is an internal skeletal muscle separating the chest from the abdomen and is the primary muscle used in the respiration process. The action is the same in dogs as well as humans: we breathe in and the diaphragm contracts downward to make more room for the lungs to expand. When breathing out, the diaphragm relaxes and migrates up into the chest cavity. This all typically happens in smooth, regular motions but when the muscle spasms it creates a hiccup.
So what causes a hiccup? The most common culprits are eating or drinking too fast, gulping too much air in laughing fits or in a dog’s case, when he gets overly excited, stressed, or inhales an irritant. Given the energetic lives of puppies and still-maturing internal organs, dog hiccups are more common in younger years than in adult dogs. A puppy’s eating habits can also cause hiccups. They go full speed all day long and excitedly gobble their food so they can get back to playing. But eating fast also quickly takes in a lot of air and air in the belly means hiccups.
More serious hiccup concerns
While the above hiccup origins are common and generally recede without further incident, some cases demand closer attention. In some situations, dog hiccups might be a sign of a parasite. Long periods of hiccups, diarrhea, or vomiting could mean heartworms or roundworms, both of which spell trouble for your dog’s respiratory tract.
Gastric issues are similar to parasites and the above symptoms as well as blood in the stool are strong signals that something is wrong. Gastrointestinal problems come in many forms with dogs but don’t wait to check with your vet lest an “innocent” case of hiccups becomes life-threatening.
How to stop dog hiccups
Fortunately for us humans and our dogs, most hiccup episodes only last a few minutes to about ten. And most dogs generally will not appear to be bothered by them and go about their business. However, if hiccups persist most dog owners want to come to the rescue. As it turns out, we have tradition on our side as many of the same human hiccup “cures” also work with dogs.
- Try adding something sweet such as honey, maple syrup, or sugar to their water, or giving them something sweet to eat (as long as it’s not chocolate). Just like a temperamental little kid, a sweet treat tends to distract a dog and often relaxes its breathing.
- Try massaging your dog’s chest area to relax the diaphragm, or instigate a mild playtime to change his breathing pattern.
- Some hiccup events are more violent than others so be sure not to give your dog anything that involves significant chewing, as this often leads to choking.
- Give your dog smaller, more frequent meals during the day rather than two big ones.
Hiccups persisting for more than a few hours could mean something more serious lurks, including respiratory problems, pneumonia, asthma, or heatstroke. If you suspect any of those conditions, call your vet right away.
We know your dog is a cherished member of your family, so our entire team shares a commitment to provide the best, most compassionate veterinary care for your dog. We offer a variety of dog services to in the Pflugerville/Austin-Round Rock, TX area including vaccines, dental care, weight management, senior care, and more. Call (512) 251-BARK today to learn more!