You may have seen your doggo hic-hiccing from time to time and wondered if these adorable sounds are actually hiccups. We humans are obviously prone to them, but can dogs get hiccups too? And if they can, what causes them and should you be worried?
Can dogs get hiccups?
If you’ve ever suspected that your dog has suffered a case of hiccups, you’d be correct. Dogs can get hiccups! In fact, most mammals experience them, including cats, rabbits, rats, horses, squirrels, and otters. (Side note: an otter hiccuping has to be the most adorable thing ever.)
Just like in humans, dog hiccups are all to do with the diaphragm. This muscle sits between the abdomen and chest, and helps us and our doggos breathe.
Usually, the diaphragm moves at a slow, regular pace. However, hiccups happen when the diaphragm contracts involuntarily. As a result of the contraction, the opening of the vocal cords – known as the glottis – closes for a brief period. This is what generates the characteristic “hic!” sound associated with hiccups.
Why can dogs get hiccups?
Now that we’ve solved the question, “Can dogs get hiccups?”, let’s find out what brings them on. There are a few reasons why dogs get hiccups – and luckily, most of them are totally benign. Here are some of the most common causes of dog hiccups:
- Eating or drinking too quickly. When dogs practically inhale their food, they also inhale something else: air! This then makes the stomach fill up too fast, irritates the diaphragm, and leads to hiccups
- Excitement, or very active play. When a dog is excited or using up a lot of energy, they can breathe rapidly and provoke hiccups
- Stress. Similarly, a stressed dog can experience rapid breathing and hiccups
- Upset tummy. Something might irritate the stomach and, like eating too fast, lead to hiccups
- Gas. It’s possible that hiccups are simply a way to relieve gas
- More serious issues, like respiratory or gastrointestinal problems, diaphragm malfunction, or even parasites. These are mostly associated with chronic hiccups, not the occasional bout of them. Plus, there are usually other symptoms involved besides hiccups – we’ll get to these shortly!
Interestingly, hiccups are more common in puppies than adult dogs. This is likely because puppies tend to get way more excited about things, and engage in more vigorous play. They also chow down their food more quickly.
Can dog hiccups be cause for concern?
As we mentioned earlier, hiccups can occasionally be a sign of something serious. Here are some of the symptoms to look out for that may indicate an issue. If you notice any of these, or you’re ever concerned, it’s definitely worth taking your dog to the vet.
- Diarrhea, vomiting, or bloody stools. Combined with hiccuping, these may indicate a parasite or gastrointestinal issue
- Sneezing, coughing, wheezing, heavy breathing, or nasal discharge. Along with hiccups, these can be signs of a respiratory problem such as pneumonia, asthma, or pericarditis (inflammation of the tissue around your dog’s heart)
- Hiccups that go on for more than an hour. This is longer than hiccups should last, and can indicate an underlying health problem
- Constant or very frequent hiccups. Chronic hiccups are another sign that something is amiss
Tips for relieving dog hiccups
There’s often no need to worry if your dog experiences a case of hiccups. They usually go away on their own in a few minutes. However, there are a few tips and tricks you can implement to help relieve them. There’s also a lot you can do to prevent dog hiccups in the first place.
Promote slow eating and drinking
If your dog is a fast eater – and that fast eating leads to hiccups – you can help them slow right down. Slow feeders are fantastic for promoting a calmer approach to mealtime. They make it a little more challenging for your dog to reach their food, thus preventing them from gobbling it up too quickly. Another tip is to feed your dog multiple smaller meals across the day, rather than a couple of big ones.
You can also buy water bowls that encourage slow drinking. These often have something fixed to the middle of the bowl, making your dog drink (slowly) around it. Some bowls have a floating disc that your doggo has to nudge in order to access their water.
Opt for a healthy diet
If hiccups are caused by tummy upset, a diet of pet nutritionist-approved healthy dog meals may minimise the risk of gastrointestinal problems.
Keep them calm
Your doggo might be prone to excitement-induced hiccups. If that’s the case, keeping your dog calm in stimulating situations may help to prevent hiccups.
If your pooch starts showing signs of overexcitement and it seems like hiccups are on their way, calmly remove them from the situation, give them a belly rub, and try to slow down their breathing.
And if a bout of hiccups has already started, you can apply similar tactics. Lying your dog down on their side and gently massaging their chest may help to relax the diaphragm.
Take a hike (or, more accurately, a gentle walk)
Pupper already hic-hic-hiccing? Taking them on a slow walk can help get their breathing back to normal. Try to avoid anything too vigorous – this may only speed up their breathing and intensify the issue.
Try a spoonful of something sweet
A spoonful of sugar might make the medicine go down, but when it comes to dog hiccups, a spoonful of honey can do wonders. Not only does the thick, syrupy honey soothe their throat and airways, but it also distracts your dog. This can help slow down their breathing and get rid of those pesky hiccups once and for all. Well, at least until they strike next!