Dog hiccups seem just like human hiccups, with a cute little ‘hic’ sound and a small jerking movement. Our dog’s hiccups are caused by an involuntary spasm of the diaphragm, and accompanying closure of the glottis, an area beside their vocal chords. They are very common and nothing to worry about if they stop after a minute or two. There is usually a clear reason why your dog is hiccuping, like they’ve just eaten a meal or drunk some water quickly, or are settling down for a sleep. But although dog hiccups are pretty funny, there are some occasions when they could be a sign that your dog is stressed or that a visit to the veterinarian is needed. Today we’ll look at why dogs get hiccups, whether they are ever a worry, and how to get rid of puppy hiccups.
- Can dogs get hiccups?
- What are dog hiccups?
- Why do dogs hiccups happen?
- Dog hiccup symptoms
- Are dog hiccups dangerous?
- The cure for dog hiccups
There is something innately cute about a puppy suffering from the hiccups. We all love funny YouTube videos, and dog hiccups definitely make great viewing. Our first instinct might be to grab the camera and share the hilarity with friends. However, are doggy hiccups always harmless, or do they suggest an underlying problem? Most importantly, can hiccups make your puppy unhappy? First, let’s look at why dogs and humans suffer from hiccups. What are hiccups and why do they happen?
What Are Dog Hiccups?
Let’s take a step back and look at what causes hiccups. Strangely, hiccups are one of those medical mysteries that modern science does not fully understand. Scientists have proposed many interesting theories, but have no definite answers. To look at the phenomenon, we need delve into the depths of time and the theory of evolution.
Dog Hiccups and Evolution
All mammals can get the hiccups, and scientists have speculated that they might be leftover from an earlier stage of evolution. Of course, this is only one answer, although it is built upon some scientific evidence. Perhaps, in a distant branch of the mammalian tree, when we resembled tadpoles and possessed both lungs and gills, the hiccupping mechanism acted as the body’s way of controlling gill ventilation.
Another theory is that hiccups happen when mammals are in the womb. The fetus is simply trying out its breathing muscles ready to face the outside world when it takes its first breath.
It may seem strange that we are not entirely sure what causes hiccups or how to treat them, but they are rarely a serious problem. Maybe scientists have more important things to do! Next, let’s look at hiccups and their causes.
What Happens When A Dog Hiccups?
Hiccups occur when your diaphragm spasms. These spasms are involuntary and cause the glottis – the opening between your vocal cords – to close. This temporarily stops the inflow of air and creates the “hic” sound that we associate with hiccups. The spasms are usually the result of irritation to specific nerves.
In people, the most common suspected causes are gastric distention, consuming alcohol, and swallowing irritating substances or hot foods and liquids. Gastric distension occurs when your stomach is full and actually presses on the diaphragm, irritating it and causing it to contract, just like when you breathe in.
While we hope that our dogs are not consuming alcohol, many of our canine companions have a tendency to swallow things that might have been better off left on the ground – or table.
Regardless of why mammals get the hiccups, we can all agree that having them is sometimes amusing and sometimes very irritating. Hiccups, those annoying little spasms, are just one more thing we share with our dogs. Many people don’t believe it, but dogs really can get hiccups.
Can Dogs Get Hiccups?
The simple answer to this question, “Can dogs get hiccups?” is, yes, they can! In fact, all mammals can get the hiccups. They are much more common in small puppies, but all dogs can get them, usually for the same reasons as humans.
As with humans, they are usually perfectly harmless and very cute. It’s only if they go on for a long time that you should worry. Of course, if you want to stop them, it’s useful to understand why dogs get hiccups. That way, you can avoid them in the first place.
Why Do Dogs Get Hiccups?
The causes of hiccups in dogs are as elusive as the causes of hiccups in people, however, puppies seem to experience hiccups more frequently than adult dogs. Scientists have recorded fetal hiccups in many mammalian animals and in human babies. These hiccups typically appear prior to breathing movements, and as the infants grow and develop, the hiccups usually go away.
Most of the time, dog hiccups happen because they eat their food too fast, or they eat something that irritates their stomach. On other occasions, there are simply no apparent reasons for puppy hiccups – they just happen.
If your dog is stressed or too excited, this can bring on a bout of hiccups. Sometimes, puppies play too much for their own good and don’t know when to stop! Of course, unlike people, a dog can’t tell you that it has hiccups. Sometimes, you may think that your dog has hiccups when it doesn’t. How can you decide? What are the symptoms to look out for in dogs?
Dog Hiccups Symptoms
So how do you tell if your dog has hiccups? Hiccups in dogs, like in people, can cause a distinctive “hic” sound that is usually accompanied by a diaphragm spasm.
Dog hiccups symptoms include this sound and spasm combination, and are occasionally accompanied by a burp. Or, you may just see the spasm and not hear anything.
Sometimes, hiccups are not actually hiccups at all. Retching and seizures can sound and appear like hiccups, and are far more serious symptoms. A reverse sneeze can sound like a hiccup, too, especially if it is your first time hearing it. If your dogs does have hiccups, how do you know if they are a sign of something much more serious?
Are Dog Hiccups Ever Serious?
Dog hiccups generally go away on their own, but occasionally hiccups can be a symptom of a more serious problem. In humans, hiccups that last for a long time can be a symptom of other conditions, and it is exactly the same with dogs.
My Dog has Hiccups
If your dog has hiccups that last longer than a few hours, contact your veterinarian to rule out other conditions. When your dog has the hiccups as well as other symptoms, like fever, lethargy, coughing, or loss of appetite, call your veterinarian and make an appointment to get your dog checked out right away.
You can also look for other symptoms, such as hiccupping alongside an upset tummy, diarrhea, constipation, or poor appetite. If any of these happen, contact a vet as soon as possible. Assuming that the hiccups are not too serious, the next section will give you a few pointers on how to stop dog hiccups.
How to Get Rid of Dog Hiccups
So how, exactly, do you treat pesky hiccups in dogs? In most cases, the answer is “you don’t.” Puppy hiccups generally go away on their own, and if they persist for more than a few hours, you should call your veterinarian.
There are a lot of old wives’ tales and folk remedies surrounding hiccups. People swear that you can startle a person out of the hiccups, or that eating a spoonful of sugar or dry toast will cure it. Others recommend drinking water, and some pet owners claim that rubbing an animal’s chest can help. While there is no guarantee that any of these strategies will work for your dog, there are a few that you should steer clear of.
How Not To Cure Dog Hiccups
Encouraging your dog to drink water and rubbing his or her chest won’t harm him, but some of the other strategies can. Feeding your dog a spoonful of sugar or other human foods is problematic and can lead to stomach upset and obesity if you do it on a regular basis. The exception to this, of course, is if you administer human food under the direction of a veterinarian.
In humans, giving someone a sudden shock or fright really can put a stop to hiccups. I definitely don’t recommend doing this to your Labrador puppy. Startling your dog intentionally is not a good idea. It can lead to distrust and behavioral issues, and surprising a dog on a hard or slippery surface can lead to injury.
Preventing Dog Hiccups
We have learned what not to do, but what can you actually do to cure Labrador hiccups.
These three useful tips can help:
- Try to relax your dog. You want to help them breathe more slowly, with a regular and even breathing pattern. Stroke them gently and talk to them in a soothing voice. If they roll on their back for a tummy rub, that’s great and can really help.
- For humans, sipping water can often help the bout of hiccups subside. It’s just the same for dogs and if you can help your dog to drink slowly, that might just work.
- Doggy hiccups can start when your dog tries to eat their food too quickly. One of my rescue dogs used to eat her food in no time at all and often succumbed to belching and hiccups. We gave her less food more often, and that soon sorted the problem
One other tip is special bowls that contain plastic barriers inside to stop your dog from eating too quickly. These can be a great solution for dogs that gulp down their food like there is no tomorrow. Your vet might be able to recommend special, low grain foods that suppress hiccups.
Most of the time, especially for adult dogs, these cures work perfectly and he will soon stop hiccuping. As always, if not, then don’t be afraid to ask a vet for advice just in case something more serious is causing the problem.
The Cure for Dog Hiccups
Here’s a quick summary of how to stop dog hiccups:
- Relax your dog
- Rub their tummy
- Calm them down
- Feed little and often
- Check for other symptoms
- If they continue for a long time, check with your vet
Dog Hiccups – Funny or Fearful?
Labrador puppy owners often ask, “why do dogs get hiccups?” Now, they know that dog hiccups are usually benign and resolve on their own. In most cases, they are funny and cute, just like the video above. If not, you now know a few simple methods for how to get rid of dog hiccups.
Hiccups are especially common in puppies and may be a reflex that mammals develop in the womb. For mild cases of the hiccups, changing the feeding routine or helping them drink water slowly may help. However, if your dog gets hiccups on a regular basis, has hiccups that last for a long time, or even if you just have more questions about dog hiccups, call your veterinarian.
While it is probably harmless, hiccups can signify deeper problems and it is worth getting your dog checked out if you are worried.
So, what do you think? Do you have any tips for curing dog hiccups? Do you have any funny stories? Share your tips in the comments, or visit our forum filled with friendly Labrador owners. Our guide to Labrador health has some useful tips.
- Whitelaw, W. May 3, 2004. What Causes Hiccups? Scientific American.
- Greenberger, N. MD. March 2016. Hiccups. Merck Manual.
- Ripley, K. What Causes Hiccups in Dogs? American Kennel Club.
- Brevitz, B. 2009. The Complete Healthy Dog Handbook: The Definitive Guide to Keeping Your Pet Happy, Healthy & Active Through Every Stage of Life.
- McGinnis, T. 1996. The Well Dog Book: The Classic Comprehensive Handbook of Dog Care.
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website