Updated - Oct 15th, 2022
There’s nothing cuter than seeing your new puppy hiccup. It’s amusing to watch the quizzical look on their faces trying to figure out where that sound came from. If you’re a new pet parent, you may wonder if all dogs get hiccups or if you should be worried.
The answer is no – in fact, all dogs can get a case of the hiccups! Scientists aren’t exactly sure of all the reasons dogs get hiccups, but here are the most common reasons, how they happen, and when you should be worried.
What is a hiccup?
When mammals breathe in, their diaphragm contracts and moves down to make room for the lungs to expand. When we breathe out, it relaxes the contraction of the diaphragm and moves back into position. Usually, the movement is very smooth and rhythmic. However, when there is a reason for the diaphragm to be irritated, it will spasm, causing the glottis, or vocal cords, close stopping air intake, causing the “hic” sound.
Hiccups are not painful, and not unusual, especially in puppies. All mammals get them, but in dogs, the brachycephalic dog breeds (like Pugs, English Bulldogs, and Boxers, for example) can get them more frequently because of their shortened muzzles and restricted airflow. Puppies also hiccup more often than adult dogs.
Most hiccups will last only a few seconds and are no cause for concern. But it’s possible that hiccups can be an indicator of a more serious medical problem. We’ll get into that later since it’s pretty rare. For now, let’s look at why our dogs hiccup.
Why do dogs get hiccups?
The most common reason for diaphragm spasms is eating or drinking too fast. Breathing too fast, high excitement, or even rapidly changing temperature can trigger a bout of hiccups in your canine.
You may wonder, do puppies get hiccups? Puppies are much more likely to get hiccups. The average puppy will ingest too much air during energetic play, or while eating or drinking. They also get tired and cold quickly. All these factors can lead to hiccups.
A puppy’s muscles are also weaker than an adult dog’s muscles, and more prone to muscle contractions, including the diaphragm, causing hiccups. It’s normal, adorable, causes no discomfort, or is a cause for concern unless the hiccups last longer than a couple of hours.
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How to get rid of dog hiccups
Most of the time, there is no need to stop the hiccups, since, like human hiccups, they will probably stop in a few seconds. But if not, here are some quick ways to stop them.
Room temperature water: Offering your dog a drink of room temperature water will slow down their breathing rate and stop the hiccups.
Adding a spoonful of honey, maple syrup, or Karo Syrup to the drinking water will also work. The syrup or honey coats the throat, relieving the irritation. It also encourages your dog to drink because of the sweetness, restoring rhythmic breathing again.
Swallowing: Swallowing can interrupt the hiccups, too. Massage the dog’s chest and throat to get them to swallow. This will normalize your dog’s breathing pattern and stop the hiccups.
Walking or light exercise: Restoring normal, relaxed breathing is the cure for hiccups. Taking your dog for a relaxed walk or engaging them in light play is calming and restores their breathing pattern back to a normal rhythm.
Tummy rubs! You’ve probably guessed that restoring breathing to a calm pattern is the actual key to stopping hiccups. So rolling your dog onto their back and giving some good belly rubs will relax them as well, causing their breathing pattern to return to normal. I think this method will be your tail-wagger’s favorite hiccup cure.
Note: When attempting to cure hiccups, don’t feed large or solid meals. Your dog can aspirate the food, which can lead to pneumonia or choking.
Slow down eating and drinking: In dogs, this is the most common cause of hiccups. All dogs will gobble down food occasionally, but puppies more commonly will gulp their food or water to get back to play just like any young kid will do.
It’s possible, and quite easy, to slow down how fast a dog eats by offering smaller amounts of water (but more frequently), and by feeding your dog their dog food in a slow feeder dog bowl. This is a dish that has obstructions to slow down mealtime. You can find reasonably priced slow-feeder food bowls at any local pet store, as well as Amazon and Chewy. They come in plastic, metal, and ceramic materials with many designs.
When to worry about hiccups
Most of the time, there is no need for concern. However, when dogs experience hiccups that last more than a couple of hours or happen frequently, the underlying cause may need a medical evaluation from your veterinarian.
Signs that can indicate an underlying condition requiring a veterinarian evaluation:
- Foreign body ingestion
- Nausea or gastrointestinal upset
- Heart problems or pericarditis
- Asthma or upper respiratory issues
Get your dog to the vet as soon as possible if you observe any of the following symptoms during a hiccup episode:
- Hiccups last more than a few hours
- Excessive drooling
- Difficulty breathing
- Not eating or drinking
- Your dog is in pain
Is it a hiccup or a reverse sneeze?
Hiccups are spasms in the diaphragm. Reverse sneezing is the spasm of the soft pallet found at the top back of your dog’s mouth. A reverse sneeze sounds like a snort, or sneeze of sorts, whereas hiccups are less violent sounding with just a “hic” sound and no obvious body movements.
Reverse sneezing is when the soft pallet becomes irritated and spasms, narrowing down the trachea. Your dog will extend their neck to expand the lungs and get more airflow. As they forcefully inhale through their nose, they can’t exhale it, causing the reverse sneeze sound. Most cases of reverse sneezing require no medical attention and you can stop it by offering your dog a drink of water, or massaging their throat to encourage swallowing. Once your dog exhales through their nose, the episode will stop. Again, it’s about restoring a normal breathing pattern.
Should dog hiccups concern you?
Puppies hiccup more than adult dogs, and as cute as a hiccuping puppy is, in the rare cases when the hiccups are too frequent, or last more than a few hours, a trip to the vet is recommended.
If you have a mature dog, lots of hiccuping may be a sign something more serious is going on. If you suspect your dog or puppy is suffering from too frequent bouts of hiccups, or exhibiting signs of distress, a visit with the veterinarian is appropriate.
Though this is a rare occurrence, it’s always good to be prepared so you can get your pup the best care possible. We know this – that’s why Pumpkin Dog Insurance plans pay 90% cash back on covered vet bills to take the stress out of vet visits.