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“Why does my puppy have hiccups?”, you might ask. To new dog owners with very little experience seeing their little puppy jerking and probably falling off balance due to hiccups can be frightening.
This is especially more serious in puppies because of their small size but doesn’t be afraid, hiccups are as common and as harmless for dogs as they are for humans. Well, it could be for a variety of reasons and we’ll be going through all of them so you’ll know what to do next time it happens.
Hiccups are caused by spasms in the diaphragm which is the muscle that separates your chest and abdomen and is just below the lungs. The involuntary contractions cause a sudden intake of air and the opening between your vocal cords close to stopping the airflow and that produces the “hic” sound. For dogs, it should only last a few minutes.
It might go on for longer but not more than an hour. If it lasts longer, you should contact your veterinarian. They don’t hurt at all though so you shouldn’t be worried if they just come and go. As to why they exist, the exact reason is still unknown because they serve no known purpose. Even unborn babies have hiccups and some scientists believe that it’s a way to test breathing muscles and then when they’ve been born it is just there as a leftover.
Why Does My Puppy Have Hiccups?
Most times, hiccups are caused by drinking or eating too quickly. They can also be caused by stress, excitement, tiredness, gas in their stomach, or if they breathe in something that causes irritation. They’re more especially common in puppies less than 6 months old but they can also affect dogs of any age.
The rate of occurrence decreases with age so you will rarely or never even see your older dogs have hiccups. They might just start experiencing hiccups out of nowhere. This is completely normal too so don’t be worried.
How Can I Get Rid of My Puppy’s Hiccups?
If your puppy has hiccups, don’t let them eat. They probably won’t want to because hiccups can be a real nuisance but stay calm, nothing bad is happening. They aren’t usually bothered and will just keep doing what they were doing before the hiccups started but just try to talk to and play with them if they look worried because they probably won’t understand what’s going on.
If your dog has hiccups, it’s best to leave them and let it run their course. The hiccups will stop on their own so you don’t have to start trying crazy methods to try to stop them. However, there are a variety of methods to try and for most of them, there’s no proof that they actually work.
They usually go away after a while so if someone happened to be holding their puppy upside down over a bowl of water when the hiccups stopped, they’d most likely tell their friends about the new cure they just discovered. However, there are some things you can try;
Arguably the most popular method of getting rid of hiccups. They should drink it slowly and just like humans, drinking water can also help with hiccups in dogs.
Controlling your breathing can also help with hiccups. You can lay your puppy on their side or back and gently rub their tummy to help control their breathing and this should help with the hiccups.
You could try to distract them with a toy to get their attention away from the hiccups and this might help them start breathing properly again.
There are other methods humans use like holding their breath or pulling out their tongue or gargling water. I shouldn’t need to tell you this but try to make your puppy hold their breath and please don’t pull their tongues.
There’s no actual proof that any of these even works for humans so there’s no need to try to stress your puppy for hiccups that won’t cause any harm. And, if you can teach your dog to gargle water, you’ll be too busy showing them off to everyone so the hiccups won’t really be a priority.
My Puppy Has Hiccups in Their Sleep
This is also perfectly normal and might start if they go to sleep not long after they’ve eaten. It’s not likely to wake them so don’t be worried, there’s nothing wrong and the hiccups will stop on their own.
Can Hiccups Be A Sign of Something Else?
If all they have are the hiccups but they’ve gone on continually for over an hour then it might be a sign of something else. The “hic” sound is the main characteristic of the hiccup and it’s similar to the one humans make when we have hiccups.
If they only make those sounds then there isn’t any problem but if they’re coughing or sneezing or wheezing or making any other sounds, whether these are paired with hiccups or not, you should be concerned. Hiccups can be a sign of any of the following:
Hiccups will most likely be paired with more obvious symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal pains, and vomiting.
Some worms can cause respiratory issues and hiccups can be a sign of this. If their hiccups last for long periods of time and don’t seem to be going away, it might be a sign of the presence of a parasite in your puppy’s system.
If they’re having respiratory issues, hiccups will most likely be accompanied by symptoms like sneezing, coughing, wheezing and continual reverse sneezing. They might also produce a discharge from their nose and respiratory issues can be life-threatening so you should take them very seriously.
Seek help from your veterinarian if any of these happen. If they’re making multiple sounds and you can’t tell them apart you can make a video and take it to your veterinarian. They will be able to tell if it’s nothing or if something is wrong and they’ll tell you what you need to do.
What if the Hiccups Don’t Go Away?
Like I said before if your puppy’s hiccups have lasted over an hour you should contact your veterinarian because continual hiccups are usually a sign of something worse. Also, if they start breathing very heavily or irregularly or start wheezing or sound like something’s blocking their airway, contact your veterinarian.
How Can Hiccups Be Prevented?
Since most puppy hiccups will be caused by eating and drinking too quickly, the best solution is to control the rate at which they eat. You could use an interactive feeder or you could give them smaller portions and refill when they’re done so they don’t end up eating too much too fast. That way they don’t swallow as much air while eating as quickly as they would and are less likely to get hiccups.
You should also give them a little time to rest when they’re done eating. They shouldn’t run around or exercise as this will increase blood supply to the gastrointestinal tract and that leads to effective digestion. The stomach is just behind the diaphragm so giving it that time to empty itself will reduce the pressure it places on the diaphragm.
A reverse sneeze might be mistaken for a hiccup but it is quite different because when this happens, your puppy will pull air rapidly into their nose which is the opposite of a regular sneeze where the air is pushed out. Unlike hiccups, they don’t have that “hic” sound and are usually caused by irritations in their noses. They are also harmless and shouldn’t be a cause for concern unless your puppy is doing it continually and isn’t stopping.
More often than not puppy hiccups aren’t something to worry about and can be occasionally funny to see and just look adorable if you’re not one of those pedantic dog parents. It isn’t unusual for them to have hiccups so just leave them and the hiccups will go away before you know what’s happening.
However, if they’re displaying any of the other symptoms we’ve highlighted above or any other unusual symptoms or behavior then you should contact your veterinarian for help.