Did you know, we now think that the cause of a hiccup is a spasm in the diaphragm? The diaphragm is a muscle that separates the chest cavity from the abdomen. Hiccups are a normal part of life, whether you are a human or a puppy. We do find that puppies tend to experience hiccups more frequently than adult dogs.
Although a hiccupping puppy can be quite adorable at first, it doesn’t take long before we want to know if our puppy is okay and if there’s anything we can do to help.
There are lots of different causes of hiccups and they are hardly ever a cause for concern. While some owners try hard to ‘stop’ the hiccups, they usually go away by themselves with no intervention. Read on to learn more about hiccups in puppies.
Is It Normal For Puppies To Hiccup?
It is 100% normal for your pup to develop hiccups. This is true even if they seem to get them every day. In fact, puppies can have hiccups when they are in the womb. Scientists believe this may be a way for them to ‘test out’ their breathing muscles.
You will naturally be watching closely over your puppy and might become concerned if you notice their little bellies contracting and that ‘hic’ noise coming out of their mouth. Rest assured, all puppies hiccup from time to time.
Puppies hiccup more often than older dogs. This could be because their respiratory and digestive systems are less mature. It is also possible that it is because of their typical ‘puppy behavior’. Things like gulping down food quickly and drinking too much water can all cause hiccups.
Anecdotally, short-faced breeds (brachycephalics) such as the Pug, Shih Tzu, and French Bulldog are more prone to hiccupping bouts. It is thought that this is due to the restricted airflow they experience.
Did you know, puppies can also hiccup while they sleep? This is entirely normal and, the fact that they don’t wake up proves just how little they are bothered by hiccups.
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Why Do Puppies Get Hiccups?
There are lots of triggers that can lead to hiccups and we rarely find out why our pup has developed them. Possible considerations would include:
- Eating too quickly. Puppies like to live life to the full. If a bowl of food is placed in front of them, they will see it as their duty to demolish the contents in record time. Unfortunately, eating quickly can lead to air inhalation and a mild stomach ache. We may also see hiccups developing soon after the meal. You can try to prevent this from happening by offering your pup their meals little and often. Consider using a slow feeder bowl. This is a bowl with plastic attachments that make it hard to eat quickly. Ensure your pup is not eating when around other dogs or children, as they may see them as ‘competition’ and eat even faster than usual to prevent their food being taken.
- Over-eating. While you may assume that a puppy knows how to regulate what they eat, this is not always the case. This is especially true for larger breeds such as Labradors, Great Danes and Dalmatians. If your dog pigs out on a big bowl of kibble, their stomach may get bloated and they might burp or hiccup. Avoid this from happening by only offering the correct portion at meal time and not leaving food or treats out when they are young. If unsure how much to feed your pup, there should be feeding guidelines on the packet of their puppy food. This guide will take into account their age, weight, predicted weight and activity levels. Your vet would also welcome a discussion on their diet.
- Drinking too quickly. As with eating fast, a dog who gulps down their water is likely to inhale air at the same time. This can easily lead to hiccups. It is important that dogs always have access to fresh water, even if it causes hiccups. If your dog is drinking excessively, have them examined by a vet as this can indicate an underlying medical issue such as diabetes or a urinary tract infection.
- Over-excitement. For some, they can get ‘amped up’ on adrenaline. They may run around, jump up, bark and even hiccup. It is possible that these hiccups are due to the excess air inhaled when barking, panting and being frantic. Try to provide healthy ways for your pup to burn off their energy during the day.
- Anxiety. For some, hiccups are a sign of nervous energy. We would hypothesize that this is due to hyper ventilation occurring due to the fact that their ‘fight or flight’ reaction has kicked in. If it does appear that your dog’s hiccups are driven by anxiety, try to remain calm when they start hiccupping as they will quickly pick up on your stress. If your pup hiccupping is a source of worry for you, try to take your mind off things by playing with them or bringing them for a walk. The likelihood is, you’ll both soon forget about the hiccups and they will soon stop.
- Nausea and excess stomach acid. Sometimes, hiccupping may be a sign of a gastrointestinal disorder. In this case, you may notice other signs such as vomiting and a reduced appetite. It can sometimes help to feed smaller meals more frequently. Pups may also benefit from a sensitivity diet and a course of probiotics. If signs continue or worsen, seek vet care as your puppy might benefit from some ant acids and anti nausea medicine.
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How To Help Your Puppy Stop Hiccuping?
The majority of the time, we can sit back and do nothing at all. Hiccups are no cause for concern and most pups are not bothered by them. However, if you think your little one is distressed, there are a few things you may wish to try.
Unfortunately, there is no definitive way of stopping hiccups, so don’t fret if your attempt doesn’t work right away. Give your pooch some time and they should soon stop hiccupping.
Here are some methods you may wish to try:
- If it has been a while since your pup has had anything to eat, offer them something bland to eat such as a few pieces of chicken and a tablespoon of rice.
- Offer a drink of water.
- Try to calm your puppy down. This may mean offering them a distracting chew toy or stroking their belly. This is especially effective if you think your furry friend is a little anxious.
Some websites suggest offering your pup a spoonful of something such as syrup or honey. This isn’t needed and is probably a little too sweet to be given regularly. It’s also not the best thing for your pup’s teeth. We also do not advise pulling your dog’s tongue out or massaging their neck. Neither of these methods will work and they may irritate your dog.
As dogs get older, they naturally experience hiccups less and less often. Despite this, it is still perfectly normal for adult dogs to experience hiccups now and then.
What To Do If Hiccups Don’t Stop (When to see a vet)
Very rarely, hiccups may be a sign of a medical issue. In this case, hiccups may be very frequent and episodes may last for several hours. You may also notice that your puppy becomes distressed and out of sorts during the hiccupping episodes. Usually, a hiccupping episode will only last for a maximum of 30 minutes.
If your pup has other signs such as nausea, vomiting, lethargy, or a reduced appetite then we should have them assessed. We should also monitor for a change in their breathing pattern or wheezy breathing. If their breathing becomes affected, this is urgent and we should seek emergency care for them.
Your vet will examine your pup, checking them from nose to tail. They will ask questions about their diet and eating habits. They will also want to know about how frequently they are experiencing hiccups and how long the bouts last. If you have a video of the hiccupping, they will examine it. If worried, they may also run some tests such as a chest x-ray, endoscopy, and an abdominal scan.
Depending on what is going on, they may offer some medical intervention such as anti-acids or an anti-nausea injection. It is likely they will also suggest you start your dog on a sensitivity-food.
Top Tip: Don’t mistake hiccups for something else. Sometimes, a new dog owner may mistake a hiccup for a cough, sneeze or reverse sneeze. If unsure, you can always video the event and email it to your vet to analyze.
Thank you for reading!
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Additional info: PetMd dogs & hiccups