Dog hiccups are typically harmless and rarely severe. Symptoms are caused by diaphragm spasms or contractions of the diaphragm triggered by excitement, eating or drinking too fast, irritants, or stress.
Puppies that experience hiccups usually do so first thing in the morning after waking up, after naps, after eating, or when they are excited.
Sources of dog hiccups
Hiccups are so common some veterinarians think they are “growing pains” some puppies must endure while physically and mentally maturing.
The hiccups occur when your puppy’s diaphragm involuntarily contracts. Usually, the episodes decrease as dogs get older. Adult dogs rarely have hiccups and most dogs stop having hiccups by the time the puppy is eight months to one year.
Other veterinarians claim hiccups are a vestigial reflex many puppies have from their days in the womb. It was a way they could exercise their lungs and strengthen esophageal muscles while being “underwater.”
The majority of puppies stop having hiccups once their lungs adjust to oxygen and a drier environment.
There is no reason to worry if hiccup episodes last less than an hour. If they continue, or are chronic, consult your veterinarian.
Occasionally hiccups can be a warning sign of something more serious. Hiccups and vomiting can be a sign of gastrointestinal distress. Puppy hiccups also can be a sign of worms.
If your dog experiences hiccups combined with coughing or shortness of breath, then it could be a symptom of heart disease, hypothermia, kennel cough, heartworm disease, asthma, or other respiratory diseases. If you are concerned, schedule an appointment with your vet.
Hiccups occasionally are mistaken for reverse sneezing, which happens when your dog sucks air in through her nose.
As a rule, it is best to do nothing if your dog gets hiccups. If you get stressed, you will exacerbate your puppy’s anxiety.
Some people, however, can’t just stand by if they sense their dog is in trouble. If you want to help your dog, change your puppy’s breathing rhythm.
Try to distract your puppy. Often offering a ball or squeaky toy can be enough to get your puppy breathing normally again.
Giving your puppy water also can help. But avoid giving your dog any food or treats because they could cause choking.
Another option, try rubbing or massaging your dog’s chest to help relax the diaphragm. You also could play with your puppy or snap on the leash and take a short walk.
Remember, the goal is to distract your puppy and help her breathing return to normal.
If your dog keeps hiccuping and swallowing rapidly, it could be a sign your dog is eating too quickly.
To help keep your dog from getting hiccups, don’t distract her while she’s eating. You also could use an interactive feeder to help your dog eat more slowly. When your puppy gobbles her food, she swallows air, which can cause hiccups.
Limit playtime if excitement triggers your puppy’s hiccups.
If the problem persists, talk to your vet about medications that can help relax diaphragm muscles. In extreme cases, if your dog has a physical abnormality related to its diaphragm, surgery could be an option.
Bottom line: Dogs outgrow hiccups
Remain calm. Hiccups are usually as typical for your puppy or dog as they are for you.
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