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My Dog Has The Hiccups. Should I Be Worried?

Hiccup….Hiccup….Yes, dogs can get hiccups just like humans can but what causes them and should I be concerned that they keep happening? There are several things that dogs and humans do that are very much alike such as eating, drinking, sleeping, socializing, sneezing, and even hiccupping. 

What Does Cause Hiccups?

Hiccups happen when the diaphragm has an involuntary contraction. The diaphragm is the primary muscle causing respiration in the dog. When breathing occurs, the diaphragm contracts and expands in regular intervals usually happening smooth as silk. Every once in a while, the muscle will spasm, causing a hiccup. If this pattern continues, the hiccups will continue. As the pattern calms down and stops spasming, the hiccups go away.

When Do Hiccups Occur? How Can I Help?

Hiccups can occur for a couple of reasons. One, the dog is eating or drinking too fast and inhaling too much air. We have all seen our dog inhale his food too quickly. Some act like they do not know when or if they will ever get another meal. The faster they eat, the more likely it is to cause hiccups. When they gulp their food or water, they are most likely to ingest just as much air as food. All this air can put unneeded pressure on the diaphragm and cause hiccups. The best way to prevent this from happening is to feed the dog smaller meals more often. If the dog gets into a pattern of having more frequent meals they can count on, they are less likely to eat too quickly and take more time eating their food.

Another way to get a dog to eat slower is by getting what is called a “slow bowl”. These bowls are specifically designed to encourage your dog to slow down when eating. These bowls have raised edges inside the bowl which creates a barrier and makes the dog get his food in a much slower manner. 

Secondly, hiccups can also occur if they inhale something that irritates their nose and blocks their normal breathing pattern. A dog can inhale a fox tail, a piece of grass, or some other foreign object and the blockage of regular amounts of air can cause the dog to change his breathing pattern, resulting in yet, another round of hiccups. 

Dogs also get hiccups when they get stressed. Hiccups tend to occur more often when their environment is making them stressed. Are their fireworks going on in the neighborhood? Is it storming outside? Are people shouting within the home? Are other pets running around and causing a commotion? All these things cause stress for the pet. Some breeds are more prone to these problems than other breeds. 

There are many things that you can do to help calm a pet down such as get them away from the noise as much as possible or do something such as provide a treat or play with them. Distraction is the key when a dog is stressed. Many owners use what is known as a Thunder Shirt. This shirt is a like a big warm hug for the dog and helps to keep the pet calm in stressful situations. Many owners rave about how well it works. Creating a calm environment is key for a stressed dog and will help eliminate what is bringing on the hiccups. 

Hiccups are more common in puppies than in grown adult dogs as they tend to get excited and are hyper more. Energetic play and rapid breathing can bring on hiccups. Puppies with hiccups can be rather funny to watch as they don’t understand what is happening. They have a perplexed, funny look on their face, like “What is Happening??” It can be quite amusing to watch.

Are hiccups dangerous? Should you be worried?

For the most part no. Most hiccup bouts are not dangerous and usually pass in a few minutes. However, if you notice your dog having hiccups over and over, it might indicate an underlying problem that is more serious and would need to be addressed by your local veterinarian. These problems could include respiratory defects, pneumonia, asthma or pericarditis – which is the swelling and irritation of the tissue surrounding the heart, usually causing chest pain. Hiccups can also be caused by parasites. If a dog has internal parasites, it can affect his breathing pattern and the result is hiccups.

If your dog has had hiccups for a few hours or seems to have a pattern of hiccupping over and over for a period of time, it is best to consult a veterinarian and have him examined to rule out any underlying issues that would need treatment.

How Can You Help a Dog with Hiccups?

As like humans, they usually go away on their own but most dog owners tend to want to help stop them. There are a couple of known strategies that tend to help. One, you can give the dog something sweet, such as honey, syrup, or add sugar to their water. This tends to break the cycle of the breathing pattern and stop the hiccups. You can also help by massaging the chest to help him relax. Startle the dog by making a loud noise near him or get him to exercise and get his heart rate up. All these things have the same result. They change the breathing pattern and stop the spasm that is reoccurring to cause the hiccups.

Prevention is the Best Key 

If you are concerned about your dog getting the hiccups and the tricks of the trade to get rid of them, try and prevent them from occurring in the first place. Serve small meals more often than a big meal once or twice a day. Prevent the dog from gulping down his food and taking in air that might cause the hiccups by allowing him to count on small frequent meals. Lack of exercises may also cause digestive problems. Get some dog toys for your dog to easily help him take more exercises. 

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Secondly, keep fido calm. When dogs get stressed, they hiccup. If a large event, like the 4th of July is coming up and you know that potential fireworks will stress him out, take preventive measures to keep him calm. Keep things low-key in the home. Distract him with t.v. or music, toys and treats. Play with him. Put on a Thunder Shirt. Anything that will keep him calm and less stressed. The goal is to keep his breathing pattern on an even keel to prevent hiccups from occurring. 

Finally, if you feel that your dog has more than just a regular bout of hiccups and they don’t seem to be going away on their own or they tend to be reoccurring and happening for a few hours, consult your local veterinarian as soon as possible to see if there might be an underlying problem that needs to be addressed. Remember that puppies are more likely to get hiccups than adults as they are more prone to excitement, being hyper and things that upset their breathing patterns.

Overall, hiccups in dogs are usually no big deal, often funny and potentially preventable. There is generally no cause for alarm as most hiccups will go away on their own. If you think it might be a more serious issue, always seek the advice of a veterinarian.

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