Understanding dog hiccups

When a puppy gets the hiccups it can be undeniably charming and adorable. But then, for many new pet owners, the fear kicks in. Is this normal? Should I be worried? What can I do to help? 

Before you book that emergency appointment at the vets, read our guide to understanding dog hiccups.

When a puppy gets the hiccups it can be undeniably charming and adorable. But then, for many new pet owners, the fear kicks in. Is this normal? Should I be worried? What can I do to help? 

Before you book that emergency appointment at the vets, read our guide to understanding dog hiccups.

Tom Harrison
Content writer
4
minute read
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Posted 10 NOVEMBER 2021

Can dogs get hiccups? 

They certainly can! All ages and breeds of dog can get hiccups. Most dogs will get hiccups at least once in their life, and sometimes it can be quite frequent when they’re young. Hiccups are much more common in puppies than in adult dogs. 

When a puppy gets hiccups it can almost break the cute-ometer, but it can also be worrying for owners. Is it normal? Does it bother them the same way it does us? What can we do to help stop them?

Why do dogs get hiccups? 

Basically, for the same reasons we do. Hiccups in dogs – and humans – are caused by repetitive, involuntary contractions of the diaphragm. That’s the muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen, and the primary muscle used in breathing. 

When your dog breathes in, the diaphragm contracts and moves down to give its lungs space to fill up with air. When your dog breathes out, the diaphragm relaxes and moves back up into the chest area. Normally this is a smooth process, but if something irritates the diaphragm, the muscle may start to spasm involuntarily. As the diaphragm contracts sharply, it causes the vocal cords to close and that’s what causes the classic ‘hic’ noise. 

In dogs, hiccups may be caused by: 

  • eating or drinking too fast
  • excitement
  • stress
  • inhaling something that irritates them
  • energetic play
  • rapid breathing
  • overexertion – especially on a hot day. 

That’s probably why puppies tend to get hiccups more than older dogs. They’re more likely to eat or drink too fast, to get overexcited, or get worked up playing too hard.

Should I be worried about my dog having hiccups? 

For any new dog parent, it can be a little alarming to see your puppy get their first case of the hiccups, but generally no, it’s nothing to worry about. It doesn’t seem to bother most dogs too much. And usually, bouts of hiccups only last a few minutes. 

In most cases, it’s best to ride it out and not to worry. You could try some of the suggestions below, but it is likely that your dog’s hiccups will be gone before you’ve even had time to record an adorable video. 

If the hiccups last for several hours, they’re accompanied by other symptoms, or if your dog gets hiccups regularly, then it’s time to take them for a trip to the vet, just to check it’s not a sign of a more serious underlying issue. 

Persistent cases of the hiccups could be linked to more severe breathing problems, synchronous diaphragmatic flutter (SDF), pneumonia, asthma, pericarditis, heat stroke, or even gastrointestinal problems.

What can I do if my dog gets hiccups? 

We’ve come up with a mind-boggling number of home remedies to get rid of our own hiccups – memory games, holding your breath, drinking water backwards, scare tactics – but most will be hard to recreate with your four-legged friend. 

The idea is the same, though. It’s all about calming them down, distraction and changing their breathing pattern. Next time your dog gets a case of the hiccups, you could try: 

  • encouraging your pup to drink a bit of water – slowly, of course!
  • adding a little honey or sugar to your dog’s water to sweeten it up, distracting them and helping them to relax
  • massaging your dog’s chest to relax their diaphragm
  • startling them (gently) – perhaps with an unexpected clap or a jump
  • taking them out for some light exercise 

One thing to avoid is giving your pup any solid food that requires chewing, as it could be a choking hazard if your dog hiccups violently and the food gets lodged in their throat. 

Really though, it’s just a waiting game. The hiccups will likely not last long, so enjoy the adorableness while you can.

Frequently asked questions

What are reverse sneezes?

You may have noticed your dog ‘reverse sneezing’. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a backwards sneeze. Your dog will energetically suck in air through the nose, rather than out, creating a loud snorting sound. They’re often confused for hiccups, but they’re more like coughs and regular forward sneezes.

Can my puppy hiccup while it’s asleep?

Surprisingly, yes! Some puppies have been known to hiccup while they’re asleep.

Is there anything I can do to prevent my dog from getting hiccups?

If your pup gulps down their food like they’re attempting to break a speed record, it could be the main culprit behind their hiccups. To slow them down, you could try using a special slow-feeding bowl. Or you could try feeding them smaller, regular meals throughout the day rather than two big meals.

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