Dogs are no stranger to the plight of hiccups, and they usually struggle with them for the same reasons as humans. Curing dog hiccups should take a different tack, though. Forget all the old wives tales that you have heard over the years – very few of these supposed foolproof cures would be effective on Fido!
This guide will cover everything that you need to know about dog hiccups – what they are, how they occur, whether or not you should be concerned and how to put a stop to them.
What Are Hiccups?
The medical explanation for hiccups is the same for both humans and canines. When we breathe in, the diaphragm (located just below the stomach) contracts, and then expands again once we breathe out.
Sometimes the diaphragm can become irritated or overworked and start to spasm, however. In these instances, we take in fair faster, which hits the larynx and forces it to close. This is what creates the famous, “hic!” noise that everybody will recognize.
Are There Different Types of Hiccups?
Yes, there are typically three different kinds of hiccups:
- A Hiccup Bout, which is the most common kind of hiccup. These could last as short as a few seconds, maybe a minute or two, but rarely more than an hour. This will usually not be a problem for a dog – they may not even notice that they are hiccupping.
- A Persistent Hiccup, which runs for longer – possibly hours, days or even weeks, off and on. This is far from ideal, but the hiccupping should not be constant during this time. You may want to get your dog seen to if they are struggling with persistent hiccups and they are showing signs of distress, or take a look at their behavior and see if there are lifestyle changes you may be able to make.
- An Intractable Hiccup, which is a chronic problem that lasts for years. This can be incredibly annoying as well as potentially dangerous and may point to an underlying health condition that your dog is living with. A vet will be able to advise on this.
There is no need to speak to an animal healthcare professional at the first sign of a dog hiccup. If they continue to do so, however, especially after you have taken steps to amend their lifestyle, it may be worth asking your vet to take a look just in case there is a reason behind the hiccuping.
What Gives a Dog Hiccups?
Again, the reasons that a dog may end up with the hiccups are very similar to those that impact upon humans.
Some of the common causes of dog hiccups are:
- Eating or Drinking Too Quickly. Arguably the most common reason for hiccups in any species, eating or drinking too quickly will result in your dog taking in huge lungfuls of air. This will irritate their diaphragms as discussed above, and lead to a bout of hiccups. This should only last a few moments, and your dog might be completely indifferent – there’s no need to panic and call the vet straight away!
- Running and Exercising. Much like with eating and drinking, racing around a park or backyard chasing a ball with their mouths open will allow a great deal of air into your dog’s lungs. Again, this means that they’ll struggle with a short bout of hiccups that will pass almost as quickly as they arrive.
- Swallowing a Foreign Object. If your dog is the curious type that loves to poke their nose into all kinds of nooks and crannies, they may also take these investigations one step further and start exploring new territory with their mouths. If your dog swallows something small, it may irritate their diaphragm and cause a short bout of hiccups until it passes through their system.
- Excitement or Stress. If your dog is operating at a heightened state of emotion, they may start breathing considerably faster and heavier. This, in turn, can lead to them swallowing vast amounts of air and – you’ve guessed it – hiccupping.
- Low Body Temperature. If a dog – most likely a puppy or an older, senior canine, especially those with short fur coats that provide less body heat – gets too cold for comfort, their diaphragms will contract, and they’ll start to hiccup. You notice this seemingly out of the blue during the winter, trying dressing your pet in a dog jumper or moving their bed or crate closer to a heat source such as a radiator or closed fireplace.
- Gas. There is no evidence of this theory, but some vets believe that dogs will hiccup in an attempt to ease symptoms of gas or tummy trouble. If you think this may be the cause of your dog’s hiccups, look into our guide to what you can give your dog for gas and bloating.
As you’ll see, dog hiccups are hugely similar in origin to human hiccups – and this should set your mind at rest that your dog will not be struggling for long. Some dogs are wholly indifferent to hiccupping, but others may find it annoying or frightening (which is likely to aggravate the problem and lead to more hiccups, not less). If this is the case, skip ahead to our section on how to treat dog hiccups.
Dog Hiccups Symptoms
The symptoms of dog hiccups are simple – it’s the sound that we all recognize the moment we hear it, and it should pass after a few moments. However, if your dog displays other symptoms as well as hiccupping, it may be something more serious. For example:
- Stomach Upsets. If your dog is vomiting and struggling with diarrhea in addition to hiccupping, they may have a gastrointestinal problem. If they are also off their food and you find traces of blood in the feces, get a vet appointment ASAP.
- Difficulty Breathing. Hiccups by themselves are usually nothing to worry about. If they’re accompanied by shortness of breath, constant wheezing or reluctance to exercise, however, it may be a sign that your dog is struggling with their lungs and will need to undergo some medical tests.
- Parasite Infestation. Sometimes, a dog suffers from hiccups because they have an infestation of parasites within their body. Always make sure that you are on top of your dog’s worm prevention treatments to keep your pet from suffering. Heartworm is the most likely culprit, which can become extremely troubling if left untreated. This isn’t said to alarm as there will be numerous other symptoms where this condition is concerned, but don’t take any chances!
- Ongoing Medical Problems. There are also many ongoing medical concerns that list hiccupping as a symptom – though try not to panic, as the same could be said about headaches in humans! The list of ailments is exhaustive and ranges from the eminently treatable to the terminal, but there will usually be other, more recognizable symptoms for every possible health condition.
If your dog has a hiccup bout, leave them to it and move on (or utilize some of our advice on how to treat hiccups in dogs). Try not to worry unless there are other, more notable symptoms at the same time.
Difference Between Dog Hiccups and a Dog Reverse Sneezing
Reverse sneezing, which is also known as backward sneezing or inspiratory paroxysmal respiration, is very common in smaller dogs. Unlike hiccupping, which revolves around irritation to the diaphragm, reverse sneezing revolves around the nose.
If something is trapped in your dog’s nostrils (perhaps they put their face into a flowerbed and got something trapped inside, or they’ve inhaled a foreign item from the floor), they may start to make many loud inhaling sounds, followed by snorts or even gagging.
Although it’s quite worrying to see and hear, reverse sneezing is similar to dog hiccups in that it only lasts a few moments and will usually pass by itself. As with hiccupping, seek the advice of a vet if the behavior persists to a point where it becomes constant – or if you suspect that your dog may be reverse sneezing as a result of an undiagnosed allergy, and you’re worried that your pooch may be in some discomfort.
My Puppy Seems to Always Have the Hiccups
This is perfectly normal – younger dogs tend to suffer from the hiccups more often than their adult equivalents, because they are considerably more excitable.
A puppy will probably race around and place strain upon their breathing, especially seeing as their respiratory systems are still immature. A puppy will also probably wolf down their food and lap up water at a rate of knots.
Unless the hiccups last longer than a few minutes, they’re typically nothing to worry about – it’s all just part of puppy life and learning as their little bodies grow so quickly.
Are Dog Hiccups Dangerous?
As we have said, a dog hiccupping occasionally is not a medical issue. Don’t call your vet because your dog has a hiccup bout; you’ll spend a fortune on the appointment just to be sent away again, and your dog will have stopped hiccupping by the time you make it there.
If you have reason to be concerned based on our previous discussions, however, do be sure to speak to a vet. Intractable hiccups, in particular, can be a cause for concern and may be a sign of an underlying concern that requires treatment. Remember the risk of heartworm in the case of a hiccupping dog. There’s every chance that it’ll be nothing, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Does My Dog Have Hiccups, or are They Choking?
This can be a very frightening question that any pet parent may have to ask himself or herself. Sometimes a dog hiccupping can sound a lot like the pooch is choking, which generally means that they are having a health problem in addition to their hiccups.
Probably the best-case scenario at such a time would be about of kennel cough in your dog in your dog. This still isn’t pleasant for Fido, but at least kennel cough will pass after a week or two; think of it as a dose of the dog ‘flu. You can always vaccinate your pet against the condition if you’re worried about the impact it might have on your dog.
The same cause could also be attributed to your dog hiccupping and coughing – though if your pet is wheezing and struggling to breathe, and they are invisible distress, it is advisable to speak to a vet.
If kennel cough isn’t to blame, it could be something more concerning such as canine bronchitis. As always, keep an eye on how things progress and consult a vet if your dog doesn’t improve naturally after a day or two and you have grounds for concern.
My Dog Hiccups at Night
Some pet owners find that their dogs hiccup more at night than during the day. There are many possible explanations for this, all of which tie into what we have already discussed and possible explanations for a dog hiccupping bout.
- Your Dog Has Eaten. If your dog eats one meal a day, during the evening, they may have wolfed it down at warp speed and thus given themselves the hiccups.
- Your Dog Has Taken a Big Drink. Many dogs like to empty their water bowls after eating or before bed – if your dog has drunk a great deal in a short period of time, hiccups may be the result.
- Your Dog is Cold. The temperature drops at night, and some dogs tend to start hiccupping when they feel chilly. This could be a very simple explanation for why your dog displays this behavior more after the sun has gone down.
- Your Dog is Tired. A dog taking substantial amounts of air into their lungs usually causes hiccups. Your dog may be tired at night, and start yawning. Do you see where we’re going with this?
There is no need to worry if your dog is hiccupping more at night than they would during the daylight hours – it’s almost always explainable by one of the justifications above. Take a look at our steps for how to get rid of dog hiccups if you’re concerned, and keep an eye on the habit.
My Dog Hiccups While Sleeping
Dogs making noises in their sleep is very common, especially with puppies. Most young pooches will emit many high-pitched yelps in their slumber, which can sound a lot like hiccups. The truth is they’re just dreaming, probably about chasing squirrels and playing with their humans!
A dog can often hiccup in their sleep, too. This is especially likely if they are dozing with their mouths open and swallowing a great deal of air, or they have collapsed into a nap straight after a big feed or playtime. Unless they are doing so regularly and appear to be gasping for air while they enjoy their REM sleep, leave your dog to their rest.
How Can You Prevent Dog Hiccups?
If you’re keen to avoid your pet ending up with hiccups, you can take a few preventative steps.
- Change your dog’s eating habits. Most of the time, a dog’s hiccups can be traced back to eating too quickly. If your pooch is prone to hurling food down their throats at breakneck speed, you could look into a bowl that is specially designed to slow down eating – these are available in any good pet store. You could also try breaking your dog’s food allowance for the day up into multiple feedings. If your dog is on an entirely dry diet, also try adding a little water or other moisturizing foodstuffs (like gravy) to their kibble.
- Investigate your dog’s drinking habits. If your dog tends to drink an entire bowl of water in seconds, try to encourage them to sip in smaller and more frequent quantities (try only half-filling their bowl multiple times per day).
- Keep your dog warm. If you have to take your dog out for a walk on a cold, wet and windy day, wrap them up warm. A raincoat can be especially important if your dog is hairy as opposed to furry (we’re thinking of a bichon frise or a similar breed here), as they can end up soaked to the bone and freezing – which, as we all know, can lead to a hiccup bout!
- Don’t push your dog too hard. If you have a puppy or a senior dog, don’t push them too hard when it comes to exercising – if they are overworked, a pooch will end up with the hiccups. Equally don’t expect a small or naturally lazy dog to keep up with a working breed, or to play for hours if they are normally only used to twenty minutes of exercise.
- Keep your dog calm and content. Seeing as anxiety and stress can contribute to a dog’s hiccups, helping them avoid such experiences will, in turn, minimize their chances of ending up with hiccups.
Naturally, hiccups may still happen – they’re a natural part of the canine experience. However, following these steps may minimize the chances of Fido hiccing up a storm.
How Can You Get Rid of Dog Hiccups?
There are a plethora of myths and legends surrounding the curing of hiccups when they do happen. Perhaps the most important thing to note is that you should never, under any circumstances, attempt to shock or scare your dog to stop them hiccupping! This may or may not work in humans, but all you’ll be doing to poor Fido is turning them in a traumatic and terrifying ordeal, and condemning him to a life of anxiety every time he struggles with a bout of hiccups.
If you want to help your dog overcome their hiccups without causing permanent psychological damage, there are a plethora of different techniques that you can employ.
- Providing an ice cube for your dog to suck on.
- Add something sweet (honey or granulated sugar) to your dog’s water.
- Convince your dog to roll on their back and rubbing their tummy.
- Offer your dog a small amount of water – consider using a saucer rather than a bowl to remove the temptation to guzzle.
- Give your dog a very gentle stroke and soft pats on the back.
- Use an anxiety-reducing natural medication (Rescue Remedy is safe for dogs) or essential oils to calm your pet’s heart rate down. Consult a vet before using any human medications, though, and ensure that your dog is not allergic to any of the ingredients.
- Take your dog’s mind off their plight by taking them for a walk, playing with them, or anything else they may enjoy.
Above all though, you should probably wait out the hiccups, especially if your dog is not showing any signs of frustration or upset. Speak to a vet if you’re worried as the hiccups are not showing any sign of abating, but there’s no need to reach for the speed dial at the first sound after finishing dinner.
Hiccups are usually not dangerous, but they might get annoying – both for your pet to experience if they’re not entirely relaxed about them, and for you to listen to if they’re loud! When you start to hear that tell-tale hiccupping sound, you should follow the above advice and decide how best to proceed for you and your pet. The hiccups may be an everyday part of canine life, but their impact can be minimized and managed with the right approach.