Pet Care Blog

Hiccups in Dogs & Puppies: Causes, Cures, Concerns

Ricky Walther, DVM
Dr. Ricky Walther
Small dog lying on the floor inside

As humans, we're well aware of how frustrating hiccups can be, but can dogs get hiccups, too? Yep. There's something undeniably cute about puppy hiccups, and you can't help but laugh at the face a dog with hiccups makes when they hear themselves make an unfamiliar noise!

If you have no experience with puppy or dog hiccups, you might find yourself concerned. Are dog hiccups normal? Why do dogs and puppies get hiccups? What can you do to stop them?

Keep reading to learn more about how to get rid of dog hiccups, why they happen in the first place, and when it's time to take your four-legged friend to the vet.

Table of Contents

Pro Tip: In rare cases, hiccups can be an indication of a serious underlying condition, and the longer you wait to see the vet, the more damage that can occur. With pet insurance, owners may feel empowered to get the fast answers they need for peace of mind about their pet's health, with protection against the financial risk of incurred vet costs.

Can dogs get hiccups?

Yes, dogs can get hiccups. In fact, they're quite common, and in most cases, nothing to worry about. Dog hiccups are very similar to human hiccups. They occur when the diaphragm (the muscle between the abdomen and the chest cavity) contracts involuntarily.

When your canine companion gets the hiccups, their inhaling breathe is followed by abrupt stops, which might shake their belly and chest, causing them to make a "hic" sound. As a dog ages, the frequency of hiccup bouts usually decreases.

Why do dogs get hiccups?

Dogs get hiccups when their diaphragm is irritated, causing it to contract then relax in involuntary spasms. The most common cause of dog hiccups is eating or drinking too quickly because it forces them to swallow air along with the food or water.

Food intolerance is another possible cause of hiccups in dogs. The stomach is close to the diaphragm, which can potentially cause spasms if their tummy is uncomfortable.

Other explanations for why dogs get hiccups include stress, excitement, and energetic play. In some cases, the cause of dog hiccups may be due to an upset stomach or gas.

Do puppies get hiccups?

Puppies of all ages — from newborns to 6-month-olds — can get hiccups. Hiccups are far more common in small puppies than in grown-up dogs, with almost all puppies exhibiting hiccups at some point during their development. In fact, puppies experience hiccups even before they're born, while they're still in their mother's womb.

Fun Fact: This also occurs in humans and other mammals, and although the reason is still unknown, the theory is that hiccups are a result of the body testing the muscles associated with breathing.

Puppy with its tongue out

Why do puppies get hiccups?

There are several reasons why puppies get hiccups far more often than older dogs, including:

  • Puppies tend to be more excitable and more energetic than adult dogs. Rapid bursts of energy can easily impact their breathing causing hiccups.
  • Puppies are also more likely to eat or drink too fast.
  • Puppies have weaker organs, and their digestive system is less mature than those of adult dogs.
  • Being too tired or cold can also trigger puppy hiccups. That's why sleeping pups are much more prone to bouts of hiccups than awake ones.

How to get rid of dog hiccups

If your dog has hiccups, there are several methods you can try to get rid of them. Many of the same cures used by humans also work well for dogs. Here are some of the most common methods:

  • If you two enjoy playing hide-and-go-seek, try giving them a gentle “spook” from around the corner, but be very careful not to instill legitimate fear in your poor pup.
  • A sip of water might help, just make sure they drink it slowly. Otherwise, they might gulp down air and end up with another bout of hiccups.
  • You can try to give them something sweet (preferably in a liquid form), such as water mixed with a little bit of sugar. The sweetness might help distract them and hopefully relax their breathing pattern.
  • If that doesn’t work, try to get rid of dog hiccups by adding in a bit of maple syrup, honey, or Karo syrup. These can coat the throat to soothe the irritation and slow down the breathing process. Just be sure that anything you give your pet doesn't contain Xylitol. This artificial sweetener is used in many human products, but it is toxic to dogs.
  • You can also try massaging your dog’s chest to help relax the diaphragm and get their breathing back to a normal rhythm.
  • Light exercise, like a mellow walk, may also do the trick by changing your pet's breathing patterns

Keep in mind, the chest contractions can be somewhat violent, so avoid giving your pet foods that require a lot of chewing, as this might present a choking hazard.

Prevention is always better than reaction. If your furry friend is prone to hiccups, try to figure out what causes them. If your dog is very eager to gobble up his food or water, consider getting them a slow dog feeder. Another option is to feed your pup several smaller portions throughout the day instead of two large meals.

You should also consider the size of their water bowl. There are bowls with different heights or levels that can help the water go down slower and with less air intake.

English Bulldog drinking from water bowl

When should you be concerned about your dog's hiccups?

Occasional hiccups are a perfectly normal occurrence in dogs and should not be a cause for concern. However, if your pup's hiccups occur very often, if they last for longer than a couple of hours at a time, or they begin to interfere with their daily activities, you should get in touch with your veterinarian.

Here are a few potentially serious causes of dog hiccups:

Respiratory issues. If hiccups are accompanied by other symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, discharge from the nose, or wheezing, it could be a sign of respiratory issues such as asthma, bronchitis, or pneumonia.

Heatstroke in dogs can also trigger hiccups. Any dog can experience this life-threatening condition, but brachycephalic breeds such as Pugs and Bulldogs are especially susceptible due to their restricted airways and short muzzles.

The list of potentially serious causes of dog hiccups also includes pericarditis (inflammation of the heart sac, the pericardium, which causes fluid to accumulate between the layers) and hypothermia (extreme lowering of the body temperature resulting from exposure to frigid temperatures for too long).

Gastric issues. If your dog is experiencing diarrhea, vomiting, and bloody stools on top of prolonged hiccups, it might be an indication of a gastrointestinal (GI) problem. The same symptoms, along with overall lethargy and exercise intolerance, can be a sign of a parasitic infection. Parasites such as roundworms and hookworms can also attack your pet's respiratory system. If your dog is still a puppy, make sure to have them on a de-worming schedule. They should be de-wormed at two, four, six, eight, and 12-weeks as a puppy, and then every three months.

Pro Tip: By signing up your dog while they are still a puppy, your pet insurance can cover up to 90% of treatments for illnesses like parasite infections.

When you take your pup to the vet, the vet will likely start with a physical exam, bloodwork, and urinalysis. Depending on the initial results and the clinical signs your furry friend is showing, an abdominal ultrasound, chest X-rays, CT scan, and an MRI might be recommended in order to determine the underlying cause of the abnormal hiccups.

Key Takeaways

  • Dog hiccups occur when the diaphragm involuntarily contracts and might result from eating or drinking too fast, over-excitement, or stress.
  • Puppy hiccups are quite common, and these hiccups typically become less frequent as your pet gets older.
  • Feeding smaller meals and slow-feeding dog bowls can help prevent hiccups in dogs.
  • Occasional hiccups in dogs are normal and are nothing to worry about. However, if hiccups last more than a couple of hours, if they're accompanied by other symptoms, or if they start affecting your pet's life, it is best to speak to your vet.

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Ricky Walther, DVM

Dr. Ricky Walther

Ricky Walther, DVM, is a small animal general practitioner in the greater Sacramento, California area. Realizing the positive financial and medical impact that pet insurance can provide for pet parents and the profession, he lends support and advice to companies like Pawlicy Advisor "The Pet Insurance Marketplace") that simplify the process of connecting with veterinary financing resources.

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