Is there anything cuter than hearing a puppy hiccup? There’s nothing quite like it. Sure, we all hiccup, but it’s just cuter and more entrancing somehow when it’s a puppy or even a grown dog.
Still, you might well wonder what the cause of these dog hiccups are, and if they’re something which should cause you concern. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at dog hiccups, how they happen, what they mean for your four-legged friend, and what you can do about them.
What Causes Hiccups?
The cause of hiccups in dogs as well as people is irritation of the diaphragm, which in turn can be caused by many things, some of which are far more likely for your dog than others. For example, your dog probably doesn’t chew gum, so swallowing it isn’t a concern. They likely aren’t a heavy smoker (though second-hand smoke still isn’t good for them).
However, there are several other causes of hiccups that can also affect your dog — drinking and swallowing food or water too quickly, for example. Maybe your dog really likes to wolf down their food, or is thirsty after running and playing and lapping up their water in a hurry. Both of these can lead to hiccups. Both of those causes are also completely natural, rather than being some mystery disease.
This isn’t to say that hiccupping can’t ever be a sign of something more serious, however. While hiccupping itself isn’t a big deal, when combined with other symptoms, it can indicate everything from strokes and brain tumors to damage to their phrenic or vagus nerve to noxious fumes and anxiety. Excitement and stress can also cause hiccups in dogs.
Puppies and Hiccups
If you have a puppy, you might find that they hiccup more frequently than older dogs. While this may be the case, it has less to do with any physiological difference in puppies as opposed to their older counterparts than their youthful exuberance.
Again, one of the primary causes of hiccups is doing things such as eating and swallowing too fast. Puppies are incredibly eager and like to do everything fast, including eating and swallowing, which in turn can result in them hiccupping more.
While you may not need to panic about hiccups being out of the ordinary or anything, just how common are they? Most dogs experience them sometimes, often when they’re puppies six months of age or younger. After that, dogs tend to mellow out at least a bit over time, although if you have a hyperactive blur of fur on your hands, your overeager adult dog may still get hiccups.
What About Hiccups When Sleeping?
If you see your dog hiccupping while they’re asleep, you might think that it’s adorable or you might be worried. After all, sometimes the most innocuous-seeming things can be signs of something larger.
So, why do dogs get hiccups when sleeping? The answer actually has to do with what kind of sleep your dog is having. Dogs are more likely to hiccup while sleeping when they are experiencing REM sleep.
For those who don’t know, “REM” stands for “Rapid Eye Movement” and signifies the deepest kind of sleep. When dogs (and humans) reach REM sleep, they are in the most comfortable and relaxing stage of their sleep cycle. Signs of REM sleep include twitching eyes, rapid breathing, and restless limbs. It often occurs about 90 minutes after your dog has fallen asleep.
Thankfully, there is nothing wrong with your dog hiccupping in their sleep. They are simply relaxing, so let them relax. There is no reason to wake your dog up. If they do wake up, you may want to give them water. You can also distract them with a favorite toy. However, you should never give them treats, since they may continue to hiccup and, if they do, may choke.
Helping a Dog with Hiccups
As alluded to above, you may not even need to help your dog if they are hiccupping. It is a perfectly natural process, everyone does it, and most of the time it passes on its own. However, if your dog has been hiccupping a bit too long or too violently and you want to soothe them, one of the best things that you can do is massage their chest.
As mentioned, you can also give them water, as well as a spoonful of honey, or else Karo or maple syrup. These should be small spoonfuls, since it’s not as if these are supposed to be a regular part of your dog’s diet. Since your dog is hiccupping, you don’t want to try spoon feeding them, either, as that may be a choking risk. Put it in their water instead.
Instead, they are mainly to help soothe your dog’s nerves. Chest rubs and other mellowing practices can do this just as well, if not better. As paradoxical as it may seem, light exercise may also be a good option. This can cause a dog to change their breathing pattern. If this is the cause of your dog’s breathing, light exercise may thus be able to solve the issue.
Do You Need to See a Vet?
While some might see their dogs hiccupping and think that it’s cute and nothing to worry about, others may be at the other extreme and panic the second that their four-legged friend does something abnormal. However, as we’ve pointed out, hiccups are normal for dogs, so is it something that you really need to see the vet about? And if so, when, and what can they do about it?
The big sign that you need to contact your vet is if the hiccups persist for a long time. Short bouts of hiccups are normal and common, but if your dog continuously hiccups for more than an hour, there is a greater chance that something is wrong, and you should call your vet. Likewise, if your dog’s hiccupping is accompanied by vomiting, diarrhea, or loss of appetite, get help immediately.
What your vet may be able to do for them is another matter. Because there are so many causes of hiccupping, your vet will need to examine them to determine the cause. In rare cases, your dog may need medicine or additional attention from the vet.
In the vast majority of cases, however, it is hopefully clear from all of this that hiccupping in dogs is completely normal and not something which should cause you a great deal of concern. As long as your dog isn’t hiccupping up a storm for an hour or more, they’re likely fine.
Just give them some water, rub their chest, calm them down, and enjoy the cuteness.