During puppyhood, my dog used to get hiccups all the time and while they are pretty adorable, one might ask if they should be worried. Dogs can get hiccups just like we do but can they ever be an indication of a serious problem?
Let’s discuss why dogs get hiccups in the first place, when you should call the vet and what remedies you can use at home to get rid of persistent hiccups.
Why Is My Dog Hiccuping?
Dogs, like humans, have a thin muscle that separates the abdomen from the lungs. It’s called diaphragm and is essential for our breathing ability.
When we breathe in, it contracts and pulls the air into the lungs. When we breathe out, the diaphragm relaxes and the air flows out of the lungs.
A hiccup occurs when this muscle involuntarily spasms and your vocal cords briefly close due to the change in pressure, causing the “hic” sound. Hiccups can happen due to various causes which are rarely serious:
- Swallowing too much air when drinking or eating
- Emotional stress
- Foreign bodies, irritants
- Panting, heavy breathing
Dogs and humans are actually not the only ones that experience hiccups once in a while. All mammals, and specifically all animals that share our breathing anatomy, can get the hiccups.
Puppies are especially prone to developing hiccups as they are easily excitable and tend to eat too fast. Excessive play sessions can also trigger these spasms. It’s a phenomenon that has been observed in many fetal species.
As the puppy or baby grows up, the hiccups slowly decrease in frequency. To this day, researchers haven’t figured out the purpose of hiccups but fortunately, it’s nothing you need to worry about.
Hiccups are rarely a sign of an underlying medical condition. Sometimes there is no apparent reason for hiccuping at all apart from looking adorable.
What Do Dog Hiccups Look Like?
You probably know hiccups from yourself. Sudden contractions flush over your lung area and uncontrollable “hic” sounds emerge from your throat. It definitely looks similiar in dogs.
Hiccups in dogs can be audible or without any sound. Their stomach area contracts in surges and may shake their whole body. Below is a video I recorded when my Rottweiler Amalia was just 10 weeks old.
Sometimes people confuse hiccups with reverse sneezing which is the act of rapidly pulling air into the nose as opposed to sneezing (pushing air out of the nose). It’s a fairly common respiratory event in dogs and is triggered by an irritant.
I have seen this only a few times in my dog when she had a cold and her air ways were swollen. The usually gets into a stiff position, extend their neck, pull back their lips and forcefully pull air into the nose.
It can be quite loud and only lasts for about 10 seconds at a time. She used to reverse sneeze in episodes and they can look pretty violently. My heart stopped every time they happened in the middle of the night.
Reverse sneezing isn’t more worrying than normal sneezing so you don’t have to panic over it. However, excessive bursts should be checked by a veterinarian to help your dog red rid off whatever is irritating his upper air passages.
In very rare cases, seizures can be accompanied by hiccuping but your dog would display many other symptoms such as violent muscle spasms, salivation, shaking or loss of consciousness.
Seizures can last several minutes at a time and will leave your dog exhausted and confused. If your pup is just happily hiccuping once in a while, you don’t need to worry about it.
How Long Do Dogs Hiccups Last?
Amalia used to experience hiccups all the time. As she grew older, the hiccups occurred less and less and she rarely has them now.
Dog hiccups commonly only last for a few seconds to about a minute. Hiccups that last more than an hour and occur too frequently over several days should be checked by a vet especially if it is accompanied by other symptoms.
They can be annoying but won’t harm your dog in the process. Most puppies frequently experience them until the age of 4-6 months.
How to Get Rid of Dog Hiccups Fast
The good thing about hiccups is that they don’t hurt and usually go away on their own (as long as your dog’s not throwing up or anything). But that answer is not very satisfying because as owners, we want to do everything in our ability to help our dogs feel better.
You have probably heard about a few common ways that people throw at you when you get hiccups. Just hold your breath, drink a bit of water or bite on a lemon. These methods are not scientifically proven and they will obviously not work for your dog.
Whatever you do, don’t hide behind the next corner and intentionally frighten your dog just to get rid of the hiccups. Unlike humans, dogs won’t understand why you are trying to scare them and will only learn to distrust you.
Below are 5 quick and safe way that will help you get rid of the hiccups:
- Offer some water: A few sips of water can definitely help with the hiccups but your dog might not be in the mood for a drink. You can also try an ice cube which helps stimulate the vagus nerve.
- Give him a massage: Put a little bit of gentle pressure on your dog’s diaphragm can help with the contractions. And a belly or chest rub is always enjoyable!
- Just relax: If your calm, your puppy will also perceive this experience in a relaxed manner. Stroke him gently and talk in a soft voice to reassure him that everything is okay.
- Slow down dinner: A dog that is eating too fast is not only in danger of an upset tummy but also swallowing a lot of air in the process. Get your puppy a slow feeder and rather feed smaller portions more often.
- Change his diet: Foods that contain lots of grain like wheat, corn, or barley tend to cause hiccups more often than low grain food. If you want to know how you can change your dog’s food then just fill out the fields below.
How to Prevent Hiccups in the Future
Because gas build up is such a common cause of hiccups, slowing down your dogs drinking and eating will definitely help in preventing them.
Besides various slow feeders that you can find online, you can also try an interactive treat dispenser like the StarMark Bob-A-Lot in which you can put part of your dog’s meal or even the whole dinner.
This obviously only works for kibble and isn’t suitable if you feed wet, raw, or homemade food.
Slowing down your dog’s water intake is also important and luckily there are specifically designed water dispensers that significantly slow down the drinking speed. I recommend the UPSKY Dog Bowl as it’s splash-proof and BPA free.
After mealtimes, your dog should rest and not engage in lots of physical exercise to prevent an upset stomach. Make sure to not give your dog anything solid to chew on during hiccups as he may be at risk of choking on it.
With all the preventative options you can do, hiccups may still occur from time to time and that’s completely normal.
How to Get Rid of Hiccups in Puppies
Hiccups are very prevalent in puppies and you can definitely try the remedies I have mentioned above as they can be used for every dog at any age. The biggest problem in puppies is probably their tendency to get hyper excited.
Teaching calmness and resting early on will go a long way and creates the foundation for focused training. Incorporating brief sessions of settling on a daily basis will teach your puppy impulse control and that relaxing is amazing and rewarding.
Are Hiccups a Sign of Worms in Puppies?
While hiccups and worms are not directly correlated, they can be a rare indication for parasites in your puppy. Heartworms and roundworms are known to affect the lungs and respiratory system which could cause hiccups.
The larvae of roundworms migrate to the lungs and settle there until they have reached their adult stage. Heartworms primarily affect the lungs and are only transmitted through the bite of a mosquito.
If your puppy shows any symptoms like coughing, vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, or weight loss, a vet visit is necessary to role out any parasites or other diseases.
Hiccups and Vomiting in Dogs
Burping, hiccups and vomiting are all signs for gastronomical problems. Dogs are masters in eating inedible objects or foods that they couldn’t digest. Maybe you have tried out a new diet or food brand.
Most stomach issues are temporary and should resolve on their own. After your dog has vomited, he shouldn’t be given any food for the next 12-24 hours to give the stomach the opportunity to rest and heal. Water should only be given in small amounts.
After the fasting, you can slowly reintroduce food with a bland diet including boiled chicken, potato, and rice. Once he is fully recovered the diet can be gradually replaced by your dog’s regular food.
If his physical condition deteriorates, additional symptoms show such as gooey, white saliva, pacing, or abdominal pain, or the vomiting persists, take him to the vet immediately.
Disclaimer: This blog post doesn’t substitute veterinary attention and does not intend to do so. If your dog shows any signs of illness, call your vet immediately.