Hic. Hic. Uh-oh. Your dog’s body is convulsing with what seem to be hiccups, waking her from an otherwise peaceful nap. Your mind starts to fill with questions. Do dogs get hiccups? Why would she be hiccuping? How do you fix it?
Let’s start with the good news. Your dog is probably OK – hiccups are totally normal. But let’s explore some causes and fixes for your dog’s hiccups!
What are dog hiccups?
Just like in humans, hiccups in dogs are caused by uncontrollable spasms of the diaphragm. This may sound scary, but in most cases, it will go away on its own!
Your diaphragm is a muscle that contracts to pull air down into your lungs, and it does the same for your dog. When your diaphragm spasms and is out-of-synch with your glottis, this causes the “hic” sound.
Dogs can also be affected by what’s called “reverse sneezing,” which is a big intake of breath. It can be accompanied by snorting and the dog’s mouth is closed, making some owners think their dog is choking or affected by a horrible case of hiccups.
This is pretty different from a hiccup, but sometimes can look similar. While also not a cause for concern, knowing the difference is important.
Why do dogs get hiccups?
Scientists aren’t quite sure exactly why this causes hiccups, or what the purpose of hiccups is, but we do know the common actions that lead to hiccups!
- Age. Hiccups are most common in puppies – after 8 to 12 months, they become much more rare. Since puppies get the hiccups in the womb, some scientists think that hiccups have a purpose for puppies. It’s possible that hiccuping helps their lungs grow and develop.
- Stress, fatigue, and excitement. Over-stimulated dogs are more likely to catch the hiccups. Since puppies aren’t as good at controlling their energy levels, stress, and excitement, they’re more likely to get hiccups than older, calmer dogs. Bouts of hiccups will become less common as your dog matures.
- Eating or drinking too quickly. This is probably the most common cause of hiccups for both humans and their furry companions. Often, overly fast consumption of food or water will lead to your dog swallowing air, which may cause hiccups.
What should I do about my dog’s hiccups?
Usually, owners don’t need to worry too much about resolving their dog’s hiccups. Hiccups are totally normal and usually will go away in just a few minutes. If your dog regularly gets the hiccups or has them for an extended period of time, you may want to intervene, although it certainly isn’t necessary. There are a few options for helping your dog be rid of the hiccups.
- Wait. As stated above, most cases of puppy hiccups will go away on their own in just a few minutes. You can take a cute video while you wait, or try one of the other options below.
- Provide Food or Water. Just like in humans, eating or drinking can help alleviate the hiccups. Be sure to moderate how quickly your dog consumes whatever you offer, though remember, eating or drinking too fast is a common cause of the hiccups!
- Slow Down Your Dog. If your dog regularly gets the hiccups from eating or drinking too fast, you may want to consider specialized dog bowls designed to help slow dogs down! Bowls with internal ridges can slow down eating or drinking. Water bowls designed to prevent sloppy drinkers from making a mess can also work to slow down dogs who gulp down water. Food-dispensing puzzle feeders are another option, making your dog work a bit harder for his kibble while challenging his brain during mealtime!
- Exercise. Changing your dog’s breathing or heart rate can do wonders to rid him of the hiccups. Forcing his system into doing something active helps get rid of those spasms! While it’s hard to force a dog to drink, a walk or game of Frisbee may be an easier way to fix the hiccups.
- Lower-grain diet. Some dogs get the hiccups more frequently when they’re on a high-grain diet. If your dog is a regular hiccup-er, try switching her to a high-quality, low-grain food.
Some scientists believe that hiccups are helpful in letting dogs clear their stomachs of gas, but that doesn’t mean your dog enjoys hiccupping. Like in humans, hiccups are annoying, but ultimately are normal and not a big cause for concern.
Monitoring your dog’s emotions and food intake can help prevent and even cure the hiccups!
Do you have a fix for doggie hiccups? Have a cute video to share of your pup hiccuping? We want to see both! Share them in the comments below.
October 23, 2016
There are lots of reasons dogs can get hiccups as you had suggested. I think the best cure though for those dogs with persistent hiccups is to get the slow bowls which have the raised inserts. These have worked on a few dogs I know. You have some great tips on your site though as generally you are right in that dogs only have hiccups every so often and waiting will clear them up.
October 24, 2016
Great advice Paul – it certainly makes sense that a slow bowl would be a good option to help dogs who continuously gulp down water! We actually have an article all about the best water bowls for messy dogs – but this goes for hiccup-prone dogs as well, since these bowls slow down fast drinkers and eaters!