While puppies are much more likely to get hiccups than your adult dog, the reasons for the hiccups are typically the same. Just as they are in humans, hiccups are involuntary spasms of the diaphragm. There are a number of issues that can be responsible for the hiccups, but in the majority of situations a simple case of the hiccups is a benign issue and cause for alarm.
What’s Happening Physically?
If an animal has a diaphragm then it is bound to get hiccups at one point or another. The diaphragm will contract in a spasm and pull air inside. The glottis, which is defined as the part of the larynx that is both the vocal cords and the space between the vocal cords, closes off suddenly, resulting in the familiar “hic” sound in most animals. Humans will certainly make the “hic” sound, and so will dogs. Cats however will typically not make much noise when they hiccup, and horses are known to make a “thumping” sound when they hiccup. This is thought to be as a result of the vocal cords being so different between these mammals.
The Causes of Dog Hiccups
It is a very common occurrence for a puppy or a young dog to get the hiccups as often as three times a day. Puppies are even known to get hiccups inside of the womb, which can be quite comical to watch as their mother’s belly bounces. As a general rule, the puppies outgrow their hiccup habit by the time that they are around 18 months old.
Daily hiccups in puppies can often be attributed to the higher levels of energy or excitement that puppies are prone to have. Puppies also tend to be enthusiastic eaters, which may result in their gulping down their dinner rapidly, thus leading to hiccups. Because puppies play so hard they also tend to gulp down a fair amount of water rather rapidly, which can also lead to hiccups.
Your puppy may even get the hiccups if he is bouncing around and yapping because he is excited that you are about to play with him or offer him a treat.
Your older dog may be susceptible to hiccups for the same reasons as an excitable puppy, and you may notice that a dog that practically inhales his dinner is much more prone to developing a case of the hiccups. This can often be resolved by splitting up his meals so that he is eating in the morning and in the evening, versus just one large meal in the evening when he is starving.
There are a number of other issues that can be responsible for causing hiccups in dogs, including certain types of stomach disorders or even mild food sensitivity. Gastritis is another potential cause for hiccups in dogs, especially if your dog has an autoimmune disorder or has recently fought off a bacterial infection.
What may surprise you is that the hiccups may be caused by emotional distress or nervousness, due to the excessive panting and gasping that your dog may be doing. Your dog will typically display other signs of emotional distress, including a fear of other people and distress when left alone. These can often be remedied with a variety of behavioral modifications that will give your pup a bit of relief.
The average case of hiccups will go away on their own, within a few minutes. If you do wish to try and help him get rid of his hiccups faster, you can offer your dog a bit of water to help soothe the irritated esophagus, or you could simply try to calm him down so that his excitement levels drop.
Potential Causes for Concern
While there is nothing that specifically needs to be done in order to cure a simple case of the hiccups, there are some situations where you may need to consult with your veterinarian, as a precautionary action.
• If the hiccups are accompanied by vomiting, and your dog is unable to maintain adequate levels of hydration. Dogs can dehydrate very swiftly, so be sure to consult with your veterinarian if your pup hasn’t been able to keep down fluids for longer than 12 hours.
• If the hiccups last longer than thirty minutes, appear to be more closely related to retching and your dog appears to be in physical discomfort. This could be indicative of bloat, or gastric torsion.
As a general rule, a case of hiccups is typically just that and will go away within a few short minutes, or when your dog’s breathing regulates.