A wide variety of mammals experience hiccups, including kittens, squirrels, otters, horses, porcupines, and yes, dogs. Of course, the mammal with the strangest remedies for hiccups is humans — you won't find any of the other animals on this list holding their breath and spinning in circles three times. Quite sensibly, dogs will simply wait for their hiccups to pass. But aside from this stark difference, dog hiccups and human hiccups are very similar.
Like human hiccups, dog hiccups are usually a mild annoyance, not a serious problem. Here's a look at what causes hiccuping in dogs, what you can do to help, and when you should be concerned.
For humans, dogs, and other mammals, hiccups originate in the diaphragm — the largest and most important muscle that supports the respiratory system. They can be caused by any number of irritants, including (but not limited to):
Regardless of which irritant causes hiccups, the effect on your dog's diaphragm muscle is the same: The diaphragm contracts uncontrollably in a diaphragm spasm. The spasm causes a part of the vocal cords called the glottis (pronounced GLAH-tus) to close, which makes the "hic" sound we all know and loathe (or love in the case of cute little puppy hiccups).
Any dog can get hiccups, but it's significantly more common in puppies. There are a few theories as to why: Puppies might be more susceptible to hiccups because their respiratory and nervous systems are still developing. Or, puppies might get more frequent bouts of hiccups because they're more excitable than adult dogs, making them more likely to gulp their food or swallow air when they run and play.
Adult dogs can still get hiccups, but it doesn't happen as often. As your adult dog ages, hiccups could become slightly more frequent again — even though older dogs tend to be the least excitable age group. As dogs' respiratory and nervous systems undergo the natural aging process, they can become more sensitive to other irritants and lead to more frequent bouts of hiccups.
If you have a bulldog, pug, boxer, Boston terrier, or other brachycephalic dog breed, you're likely aware of the additional health issues that the shortened nasal passages on these dogs can cause.
Hiccups are connected to the diaphragm, the diaphragm is connected to the respiratory system, and yes, short-nosed dogs can experience hiccups more often. Short-nosed breeds are especially sensitive to dog hiccups that come from swallowing too much air due to excitement.
More frequent bouts of hiccups aren't necessarily a cause for concern, but short-nosed breeds can also be more susceptible to some of the more serious causes of dog hiccups, including heat stroke, which we'll cover below. If you have a short-nosed dog, pay close attention to the signs listed below so you can determine whether your dog's hiccups merit a vet visit.
Most incidents of dog hiccups will only last a few minutes and will pass on their own. So, you don't need to do anything. But, as pet parents who have experienced hiccups of our own, we know how annoying they can be. If you feel bad watching your dog hiccup, here are some gentle home remedies you can try:
While some of these solutions might look familiar from human hiccup folklore, all of the techniques we've outlined are safe for dogs. Other human hiccup relief ideas may not be safe for your pet or for you as the pet owner.
For instance, never try to scare your dog to relieve hiccups, because a scared dog can act erratically and accidentally injure you. You also shouldn't attempt to plug your dog's nose or ears, and you should never give your dog ice cubes to chew on when they're hiccuping — the hiccups can transform any solid food item into a choking hazard.
If you notice a pattern around your dog's hiccups — like they always get hiccups after they eat or when they play — you can take steps to help prevent these hiccups.
Any of these steps could help relieve or prevent your dog's hiccups. But, as we mentioned, a typical case of the hiccups will pass on its own and doesn't require intervention.
There are a few rare instances where dog hiccups could signify a more serious medical condition. If your dog's hiccups last more than a few hours or are accompanied by constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, or exercise intolerance (low energy levels and a lack of interest in exercise), talk to your vet.
Persistent hiccups that don't clear up on their own after a few minutes can be a sign of these conditions:
Any time that your dog has hiccups for more than a few hours, it's cause for concern. Your typical case of dog hiccups, like your typical case of human hiccups, will only last for a few minutes.
Hiccups are typically harmless. They're a sign that something has affected your dog's breathing pattern, causing their diaphragm to contract uncontrollably and leading to that "hic" sound we recognize from our own run-ins with the hiccups.
If your dog gets the hiccups occasionally and they last for a few minutes at a time, it's perfectly normal and you have nothing to worry about. If, however, your dog has persistent hiccups that last for a few hours or more, call your vet. On rare occasions, hiccups can be a sign of a more serious medical condition.
If you'd like to support your dog's immune system before a problem starts, try adding all-natural bone broth or a probiotic for dogs to their diet. And if you want to learn more about your dog's health, visit the Native Pet blog.
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