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Help! My Dog Has the Hiccups. What Do I Do?

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If you’ve never seen a dog hiccup, you may find it endearing, or even amusing, but did you know that it can also be cause for concern? Hiccups in dogs can cause a long list of questions including: How long do hiccups last? Are they normal for dogs? Are hiccups a symptom of something more serious? To put your mind at ease, most of the time, your dog’s hiccups are nothing to worry about and will resolve in a short period of time. In more rare cases, hiccups can be caused by something more serious. In this article, I will address the most common questions about dog hiccups, as well as provide guidance on when to seek veterinary attention. 

Do dogs really get hiccups?

Actually, not just dogs get hiccups, all mammals do. Hiccups are caused by a spasm or contraction of the diaphragm, the large dome-shaped sheet of muscle between the chest and the abdomen. The diaphragm usually moves smoothly as we inhale and exhale but when it contracts suddenly, the glottis (opening of the airway) closes briefly causing the classic ‘hic’ sound of a hiccup. 

What causes hiccups in dogs?

There isn’t one exact reason why dogs, humans, or any animal hiccups, though there are multiple theories. One theory is that hiccups help to remove air from the stomach, especially when newborn mammals suckle milk. We often see hiccups in dogs that eat or drink too quickly and swallow too much air while inhaling their food. 

Another study shows that hiccups have been linked to brain development in babies and may play a role in regulating their breathing. Just like human babies, puppies also experience hiccups much more frequently than adult dogs. 

Stress, overexcitement, and robust play have also been known to cause hiccups in dogs; this is due to a change in breathing patterns, leading to an increased amount of air in the stomach. This also explains why hiccups are common in dogs with breathing problems, as well as those with gastrointestinal issues.

How do I treat hiccups in dogs?

There isn’t one set treatment for dogs that are suffering from hiccups. While there are a multitude of things you can try to give your dog relief, most hiccups will resolve on their own within a few minutes. 

If the hiccups don’t resolve, here are a few things you can try:

  • Take your dog on a walk to distract them 
  • Offer your dog a drink of water
  • Gently massage or rub their chest 

Avoid offering any dog food when they have hiccups. Doing so may cause your dog to accidentally choke. If your dog is eager at mealtimes, or is known to inhale their food before chewing it, you may want to consider a few changes to prevent hiccups. 

One change is switching to slow-feeder bowls or interactive food puzzle toys. These are a fantastic source of mental stimulation and a great way to slow your dog down while eating. These slow-feeders may also help reduce the risk of bloat or GDV (Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus) in deep-chested dogs. Another option is to try feeding your dog multiple small meals a day versus two large meals. 

Can hiccups in dogs cause major health issues?

Most of the time, hiccups are harmless to a dog and only last a few minutes. However, if your dog is experiencing prolonged periods of hiccups, lasting over an hour, reach out to your local vet for guidance, as it may be an indication of a potential health issue.

Medical problems that may cause hiccups in dogs include gastrointestinal problems, like an upset stomach and intestinal parasites, or respiratory diseases, like bronchitis or pneumonia. Take note of any other symptoms your dog is exhibiting, such as: coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, wheezing, or sneezing. If they are showing any of these symptoms, along with hiccups, make sure to get them checked out by a vet as soon as possible.

If the symptoms aren’t consistent, try recording a video of your dog when they are having an attack. This can be extremely helpful in helping to differentiate between something harmless and a sign of a more serious illness in your dog. 

Conclusion

Hiccups aren’t usually a sign of concern in pups and resolve on their own quickly, without treatment. Remember, puppies, in particular, will experience hiccups more frequently than adult dogs. But, if you notice other symptoms along with hiccups or your dog’s hiccups don’t go away after an hour or two, reach out to your local vet for guidance as soon as possible. 

About the Author:

Born and raised in Seminole, FL, Angela graduated from the University of South Florida with a bachelor's degree in Biomedical Science. Her interests include working in a small companion animal hospital with an emphasis on surgery. Angela has two dogs, Tucker, who is a Labrador/mastiff mix and a Labrador named Brody. In her free time, Angela enjoys spending time with her family and friends, going to the gym, watching sports, and doing anything on the water. 

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