Can Dogs Actually Get Hiccups?

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Can dogs get hiccups? The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that it's much more common in puppies, but adult dogs can get hiccups from time to time as well. Dog hiccups are perfectly normal, and they're usually no cause for concern. But if you're wondering how to get rid of dog hiccups so that your beloved pooch can get some relief, keep reading.

What Causes Hiccups?

English cocker spaniel puppy eating dog food from ceramic bowlIn both dogs and humans, hiccups occur when the diaphragm, a muscle located underneath the lungs, begins to spasm, as noted by the American Kennel Club (AKC). The sound of a hiccup occurs when the space between the vocal cords, called the glottis, abruptly closes during a spasm.

While scientists aren't sure why hiccups occur, they offer up a couple of possibilities. One is that they're a holdover from fetal development. Based on the fact that fetal hiccups occur in several mammalian species, the theory is that hiccuping while in utero serves as a test of developing breathing muscles. Another likely possibility is simply that hiccups are a way to relieve gas. Whatever the cause, K9 of Mine points out that hiccups are typically triggered by one of three things:

  1. Age: Dog hiccups occur most often in puppies up to the age of 8 months or so. Can dogs get hiccups after reaching adulthood? They can, but it's much rarer. Scientists suspect hiccups are more common in puppies because they serve the purpose of strengthening their growing lungs.
  2. Stress: Hiccups can also be a stress response to overstimulation. Another reason they occur more often in puppies is because puppies are more prone to overstimulation than adult dogs who are better at remaining calm, generally speaking.
  3. Wolfing food or gulping water: The same thing that tends to trigger hiccups in humans — eating or drinking too quickly and taking in too much air in the process — can also cause hiccups in your dog.

How to Get Rid of Dog Hiccups

Four week old Great Dane puppy about to get a tummy rubFolk remedies for hiccups abound, but they rarely work on dogs any better than they work on humans. And many simply aren't appropriate for dogs. For example, you wouldn't want to intentionally scare your dog to shock them out of their hiccups. Dog hiccups usually go away on their own after a few minutes. But, if they keep going and your dog is clearly uncomfortable, here are a few things you can try:

  • Give your pup a tummy rub. This will help to relax them and calm their breathing, which might help the hiccups dissipate.

  • Give them water to drink. Just like with humans, drinking water can interrupt the spasms that cause hiccups. But be sure they drink it slowly. Gulping it down will only exacerbate the problem.

You can also help prevent hiccups in the first place by taking steps to help your dog eat more slowly. Feeding them smaller meals throughout the day can help as can using a special dish that dispenses kibble slowly or a puzzle treat dispenser that makes them work to get their food. You can easily make one by setting a smaller bowl inside your pet's food dish and pouring their food around it.

Most often, hiccups are harmless. But, if they continue for a long time, they could be a sign that something's wrong. AKC recommends seeing your veterinarian if hiccups continue for hours or if your dog begins wheezing or breathing irregularly. In general, any type of abnormal dog behavior is a cue to check with your vet.

Contributor Bio

Jean Marie Bauhaus

Jean Marie Bauhaus

Jean Marie Bauhaus is a freelance writer and blogger who has been writing in the pet health and lifestyle space since 2014. Her clients have included Hill's Pet, American Kennel Club, Chewy, and more.