Why do dogs get hiccups? Hiccups are fairly common in humans, but when a dog gets hiccups, pet parents are often concerned, especially if they are lasting longer than expected. When they last very shortly though, hiccups are often categorized as one of those cute things dogs do, especially if the dog in question is a young, cutesy puppy. When are hiccups in dogs concerning? And why do dogs get hiccups in the first place? Turns out, in dogs hiccups often happen for some of the same reasons that they occur in humans, but with dogs you may want to skip those old folk remedies that are still popular nowadays.
Why Do Dogs Get Hiccups?
In order to understand why do dogs get hiccups, it's important to first take a peek at the physiology behind hiccups. Hiccups (not to be confused with reverse sneezes where dogs vigorously suck in air through their noses) are involuntary contractions of the dog's diaphragm, an internal skeletal muscle that separates the thorax from the abdomen and that's responsible for enabling the lungs to bring in air during inspiration.
When an abnormal rush of air reaches the esophagus, it causes the diaphragm muscle to spasm, explains veterinarian Dr. Marc Siebert. As the air is quickly drawn in, the "voice box," suddenly cuts it off generating the typical "hic" sound associated with hiccups.
Generally, both in people and dogs, a short bout of hiccups tends to resolve itself on its own without any medical treatment.
A Cute Puppy Problem
While any dog of any age can get hiccups, they are more common in puppies, so why do puppies get hiccups so often?
Hiccups in puppies are normal and tend to last several minutes, the episodes though fortunately tend to subside after a few weeks or months, explains veterinarian Ernest Ward.
They are often seen after the puppy eats, drinks or plays. Let's face it, hiccups are one of those cute things puppies do.
Usually, puppies outgrow the "hiccup stage" once they reach 6 to 8 months of age, but hiccups may still be occasionally seen though in adult dogs.
Why do dogs have hiccups after eating? Hiccups are quite common in dogs who tend to eat or drink very quickly, especially large breeds dogs.
Big puppies have big appetites and they tend to rapidly fill their stomach which is a major cause of hiccups in puppies, explains veterinarian Dan Rice in his book "Big Dog Breeds."
This is because air trapped in the stomach pushes against the diaphragm triggering it to spasm. The hiccups therefore typically occur shortly after the dog wolfs down a meal or gulps down lots of water at once.
Slowing down a dog's eating can reduce the chance for swallowing a lot of air at once and can help prevent a bout of annoying hiccups.
A Matter of Emotions
Strong emotions like stress, nervousness or excitement may trigger a bout of hiccups. When dogs gets stressed or excited, they tend to breath fast and they also may bark, which may irritate the dog's throat and diaphragm, eliciting those hiccups to begin.
Keep an eye on when those hiccups occur and determine if there's a pattern; your dog may be telling you something about his emotional state.
A Digestive Issue
In dogs, hiccups may develop secondary to digestive issues.
Gastric acid reflux in dogs triggers symptoms that are similar to heartburn in humans.
Affected dogs may smack their lips and may develop episodes of hiccups, explains veterinarian Dr. Beth.
In this case, the movement of stomach acid is the culprit for making the diaphragm spasm. An upset stomach may also be a culprit, suggests Dr. Amy Crain, a veterinarian working for Heart of Chelsea Animal Hospital in New York City.
More Serious Conditions
In some cases, hiccups in dogs can be a sign of some underlying medical issues that can be serious. Hypothermia, the dangerous lowering of the temperature of the dog's body can cause hiccups in affected dogs who live in colder climates because of the sudden change in stomach temperature. Other serious medical conditions that may trigger frequent or persistent hiccups include asthma, pneumonia, pericarditis and stroke, further adds Dr. Marc Siebert.
Skip Folk Remedies
Now that you know why do dogs get hiccups, you may be wondering what's the most effective way to stop hiccups in dogs. If your dog has hiccups, you may want to skip all those folk remedies popular in humans.
No need to persuade your dog to do a headstand, nor do you want him to drink from a glass of water upside down. Also, skip having him breathe in a bag or frightening his poor soul in hopes of making those hiccups go away. These methods not only don't work but will cause distress in the dog who doesn't understand their purpose.
Dog Hiccup Remedies
Instead of using stressful or even dangerous folk remedies which aren't even proven to work, try instead to use some safer dog hiccup remedies as suggested by veterinarian Pet Doc.
He suggests feeding hiccuping dogs a small snack or giving them a warm bath. Alternatively, a quick walk around the block may sometimes do the trick.
Afterward, it's a good idea to give the dog the opportunity to settle and relax.
Another trick suggested by veterinarian Dr. Altman is to administer some water sweetened with some honey, sugar or maple syrup. Massaging the dog's chest may also be helpful as it allows the diaphragm to relax.
A dog with continuous hiccups though that last over 1 to 2 hours should be evaluated by a vet. If an underlying cause is found, it will need treated. If everything checks out fine instead, the dog may prescribed chlorpromazine or haloperidol, medications known for helping the diaphragm muscles loosen up.
Did you know? Puppies start developing hiccups even before they are born! According to veterinarian Dr. Debra Primovic, puppies begin to hiccup in the womb and there are theories that this might be a way for the pup to exercise his respiratory system.