- Occasional hiccups in dogs are normal and are nothing to worry about.
- The exact cause or trigger of hiccups in dogs is unknown.
- Eating quickly, excitement, stress, or excessive barking can cause hiccups in dogs.
- If hiccups last more than a few hours or start to affect your dog's life, it's important to visit a veterinarian.
- Slow feeding dog bowls and feeding smaller meals may help prevent hiccups in dogs.
There is still a ton of information that we don’t know about hiccups—the annoying yet laughable phenomenon we sometimes experience after one too many glasses of Chardonnay or after scarfing down a meal too quickly.
Hiccups are caused by involuntary contractions of the diaphragm, the thin muscle that separates the chest and abdominal cavities and helps us to breathe.
Hiccups are usually short lived and resolve on their own. However, in rare cases, hiccups may become persistent or chronic. The longest recorded case of the hiccups occurred in a man named Charles Osbourne, who had hiccups for over 69 years .
But what about dog hiccups? Are they normal? Can dogs even get hiccups? Continue reading to find out.
Can Dogs Get Hiccups?
Dogs, just like humans, normally experience hiccups from time to time. When your pup gets the hiccups you will see that his inhales are followed by dramatic abrupt stops, which may shake his whole chest and belly. You may or may not hear a sound when your dog has the hiccups.
Hiccups can occur in any breed of dog, with no one breed or breeds known to experience hiccups more frequently than others.
Do Puppies Get Hiccups?
Most puppy owners will witness hiccups a few times as it is very common for puppies to get the hiccups. Children and puppies alike experience the hiccups more frequently than adults. The reason for this is still unknown but it may be due to puppies’ higher excitement levels and their tendency to gobble up their food.
Recognizing Hiccups in Dogs
When hiccups occur in dogs they can look pretty similar to hiccups in humans. They can occur even when pups are asleep. However, because most dogs don’t wear clothes, it can appear more dramatic when their chest vibrates forcefully causing some pet parents to run to their vets.
Other things like coughing, regurgitation, and seizures may be confused for hiccups, however, there are usually features that differentiate them.
Coughing will cause dogs to open their mouths to expel air and are usually much louder than hiccups. With regurgitation, water or food is typically expelled and regurgitation isn’t rhythmic like hiccups are. Focal seizures, episodes of abnormal neurologic activity in a portion of the brain, can look very similar to hiccups at times as both are rhythmic.
Why Do Dogs Get Hiccups?
As stated previously, we still do not know why dogs or any other animals get hiccups. However, we do know that certain things can make hiccups more likely to occur.
Hiccups in dogs may be triggered by:
- Eating or drinking too quickly
- Excessive barking
Occasional hiccups are normal and to be expected. However, if your dog develops very frequent or continuous hiccups, this may signal a serious underlying disorder, so having him evaluated by a veterinarian is important.
One condition, called synchronous diaphragmatic flutter (SDF) will cause a dog’s diaphragm to involuntarily spasm similarly to hiccups. This is usually caused by low blood calcium levels, which can have other severe consequences in the body .
Certain gastrointestinal diseases, such as esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus) and gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) can cause hiccups to appear more often.
Tumors occurring in the brain, chest, or abdomen may also cause chronic hiccups in dogs.
Additionally, damage to the phrenic or vagal nerves can lead to abnormal hiccups. Dogs attacked by other dogs or those that have been hit by cars could experience injuries to those nerves.
Diagnosing Hiccups in Dogs
Occasional hiccups are normal and not a cause for concern. Rarely, when hiccups occur for longer than two hours at a time, when they start to interfere with your dog’s daily activities, or if they occur very often, your dog should be evaluated by your veterinarian. If possible, make sure to take a video of your dog while he is having the hiccups and show this to your vet.
Your veterinarian will likely start with a thorough physical examination, a complete blood cell count (CBC), chemistry panel, and urinalysis.
Depending on those results and the symptoms your pup is showing, blood calcium levels, chest X-rays, an abdominal ultrasound, CT scan and/or an MRI may be recommended to determine the underlying cause of your dog’s abnormal hiccups. It is important to find the cause of abnormal hiccups because certain causes of dog hiccups can be very serious.
How to Stop Dog Hiccups
In most cases hiccups will go away on their own without any treatment. Putting a spoonful of sugar on the tongue is a home remedy used to stop hiccups in humans but it is unknown if this is effective for dogs.
If your dog is having excessive hiccups, working with your veterinarian to find and treat the cause of the hiccups is necessary to stop them.
Medications for Dog Hiccups
A drug called chlorpromazine is often used to treat abnormal hiccups in humans . There aren’t any medications routinely used to treat hiccups in dogs. Acupuncture is an alternative therapy that may be helpful against chronic cases of hiccups .
How to Prevent Dog Hiccups
There are a few things that pet parents can try at home to prevent hiccups in their dogs. If your dog is a very fast eater try feeding him with a slow feeder dog bowl and feeding fewer smaller meals to prevent hiccups. It’s also a good idea to limit strenuous play or exercise right after eating.
Since gastrointestinal upset can lead to more frequent hiccups, make sure to feed a complete and balanced dog food and avoid feeding your dog too many treats or table scraps.
- Synchronous diaphragmatic flutter