Why does my puppy get hiccups?

Estimated Reading Time 5 minutes
Why does my puppy get hiccups?

Dogs are adorable creatures and part of the reason why we love them is that they bring so much joy and entertainment to our lives. Even the most mundane things that they do, things that are considered normal, can appear funny and entertaining. However, dog owners should also know if the behavior a dog shows is normal or a possible sign of disease. Take hiccups, for example. Most of the time, dogs that experience hiccups are considered cute and can be a great source of joy and entertainment in the household. But are they harmful in any way? Continue reading to learn more.

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Do dogs get hiccups?

Dogs and humans share a lot of similarities when it comes to anatomical features and physiological processes. Because of this, dogs tend to suffer the same general diseases and conditions as humans do, and this includes hiccups.

Though not technically a health problem, hiccups, which are quite common in humans, can also happen in dogs since both species possess the same organ primarily affected during hiccups. Like in humans, hiccups in dogs are generally not worrisome but there are situations where continuous hiccups can be an indication of nerve function or breathing problems.

What happens when dogs get hiccups?

Hiccups occur when the diaphragm of the dog goes through minor spasms. The diaphragm is a layer of muscle separating the abdomen and thorax (chest). The diaphragm helps separate vital organs in the thorax like the heart and lungs from abdominal organs like the stomach, intestine, and liver. But the main function of the diaphragm is to help in the breathing process of dogs.

When dogs breathe, the diaphragm contracts to increase the space of the thoracic cavity and allow the lungs to expand. During exhalation, the diaphragm relaxes to help the lungs contract and push the air out.

When the diaphragm spasms, this causes rapid and mild contractions that result in what we call hiccups. They generally cause slight chest and abdominal movement, which is usually accompanied by a quick and high “hic” sound. Hiccups are involuntary movements that can last for minutes to hours when triggered.

When hiccups are triggered, not only does it cause the diaphragm to have small, rapid contractions but it also causes the glottis (part of the animal’s vocal cords) to close rapidly, producing the signature “hic” sound we hear when dogs get hiccups.

Are hiccups dangerous for dogs?

Generally, hiccups are harmless to dogs. When dogs get hiccups, there are no signs that they are in pain. They don’t appear to be stressed or anxious during episodes, and they are generally calm during these contractions. It’s apparent that hiccups do not hurt dogs, but they can be annoying for the animal itself since episodes can last for hours. Most dogs will appear surprised because they are clueless as to what is happening. But in general, hiccups in dogs do not require treatment or any intervention.

Why do dogs get hiccups?

It is still unclear what specifically triggers hiccups in dogs. One popular theory explaining why dogs get hiccups is that it’s a leftover mechanism from when puppies were still in their fetal stage. It has been documented that fetuses get hiccups while still inside the uterus of their mothers and is presumed to be the body’s way to passively test the breathing muscles of the growing fetus.

Another working theory is that hiccups in dogs are triggered when the animal swallows too much air. This usually occurs when the dog eats or drinks water very quickly. Other situations where dogs might swallow large amounts of air is when they get too excited or become too stressed. This can also happen when dogs engage in strenuous activities and exercise or when they inhale something irritating. Rapid breathing and severe anxiety are also thought to be possible triggers of short spasms in the dog’s diaphragm.

Why do we see hiccups more in puppies than in adult dogs?

It has been observed that hiccups tend to occur more in puppies than in adult dogs. Puppies are more prone to hiccups than adults for several reasons. The first is the rate at which they ingest or swallow air. Puppies tend to swallow more air than adults because their level of excitement and physical activity tend to be higher than older dogs. It has also been observed that in addition to the possible triggers mentioned above, puppies can also get hiccups when they get tired or when they’re feeling cold.

Another possible reason why hiccups occur more in puppies is because of the extent of their body development. Puppies have generally weaker and less developed muscles, and their bodies are still not fully mature. This makes them more susceptible to premature muscle contractions, particularly in the diaphragm.

Because the frequency of hiccups in puppies is high, it’s considered normal for puppies to have hiccups daily, with episodes lasting for only a few minutes. This rate and frequency of hiccups is usually not a concern as long as it’s not accompanied by other symptoms like drooling, coughing, sneezing, hard swallowing, or lethargy and weakness.

How to Make Hiccups Go Away

While hiccups are generally considered harmless to our dogs, prolonged hiccups can make them uncomfortable. There is no established treatment to make hiccups go away, but pet parents can follow some of these steps that may help control or manage dog hiccups.

1. When dogs suffer from a prolonged episode of hiccups, you can offer warm water mixed with a small amount of sugar or honey. This sugar or honey solution can distract the dog or puppy suffering from hiccups and may help relax their breathing and control the spasms in their diaphragm.

2. Swallowing reflexes can sometimes disrupt the spasms from hiccups. Giving a gentle massage on your dog’s chest and neck can stimulate swallowing and may help make hiccups go away.

3. Light exercises like walking can also normalize the dog’s breathing pattern and help make their hiccups stop.

Read more:

Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

Puppy Socialization

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Published: 3/23/2022
Dr. Sheena Haney, Veterinarian

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