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
Puppy hiccups are so common some veterinarians consider occasional hiccups “growing pains” some puppies must endure while physically and mentally maturing.
The hiccups occur when your puppy’s diaphragm contracts involuntarily. 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.
Puppy hiccups are nothing serious
As pet parents, it’s natural to worry if your puppy experiences hiccups. But there’s no need to worry if hiccup episodes last less than an hour. If the hiccups 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.
Suppose your dog experiences hiccups combined with coughing or shortness of breath. In that case, it could be a symptom of heart disease, hypothermia, heat stroke, 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 or breathing pattern.
Try to distract your puppy. Often offering a ball or squeaky toy can be enough to get your dog breathing normally again.
Getting your puppy to drink water also can help. But avoid giving your dog any food or treats because they could cause choking.
Another option to stop puppy hiccups, 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.
Preventing puppy hiccups
If your dog keeps hiccuping and swallowing rapidly, it could be a sign your puppy is eating too quickly.
To prevent hiccups, don’t distract your dog while she’s eating. You also could use an interactive feeder or slow 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. An occasional bout of hiccups is as typical for your puppy or dog as human hiccups are for you. Hiccups are common in puppies and dogs usually outgrow the condition.
Karen A. Soukiasian is the owner of Good Dog! — Dog Training in St. Augustine, Florida. You can follow Karen on Facebook.