Why Do Dogs Get Hiccups?

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Dogs Get HiccupsMuch like humans, puppies experience hiccups, which may occur at night or after eating large meals. While there’s nothing to worry about when your furry friend has a hiccup, there are times when a dog’s hiccups could be a cause for concern. Here, we discuss all you need to know while answering the question, “Why do dogs get hiccups?”

What are Dog Hiccups?

Much like human hiccups, a dog’s hiccups are nothing more than the sound that’s produced when the glottis closes rapidly. This is a structure that keeps the passageway around the voice box protected, which closes when dogs swallow to prevent food and liquid from entering the trachea or windpipe. When we normally breathe, there won’t be any food or drinks that will pass into the throat, so the glottis stays open to make sure that there’s enough air movement between the lungs and the outside environment. 

Hiccups occur when the diaphragm spasms, or when something irritates the phrenic nerve (a nerve that provides motor function to the diaphragm) which causes a contraction of the diaphragm. These are frequent, forceful, and sudden contractions of the diaphragm muscle, which results in the glottis rapidly closing. When the glottis quickly closes like this, it interrupts normal airflow and produces the “hic” sound that we’re all familiar with.  

What are the Causes of Hiccups in Dogs

Below are some of the most common causes of hiccups in dogs. 

Eating Too Quickly 

Dogs that eat their meals too fast are at a bigger risk of persistent hiccups compared to dogs that eat slower. This is because the stomach can become distended at a quicker rate — when dogs eat too fast, they also allow air faster into the stomach. When combined with too much food, it can push the stomach in various directions, and irritate the nerves that control the diaphragm which is why you might notice the occurrence of hiccups after eating.  

Eating Spicy Food

Certain foods, such as spices and grains are known to be gastric irritants, which can create excess air in the stomach or irritate the dog’s stomach lining in some way. Any kind of these food items can irritate the stomach, which may cause contractions. Again, because the stomach is so close to the diaphragm, eating spicy food can result in hiccups. 

Stress

Facing anxiety and being in stressful situations can lead to hiccups in dogs. Stress can release certain chemicals in the stomach, and when the diaphragm contracts, it can end in hiccups. In some cases, these chemicals can trigger uncontrollable spasms of the diaphragm — if your dog starts to hiccup in its sleep, it may end up having a nightmare. 

Overexcitement

Hiccup episodes in dogs can also take place in dogs that are overexcited, which can also manifest as stress in dogs. Other times, this can also lead to a lot of barking; each bark will come with a tendency to get more air into your pup’s body. Again, this can result in involuntary spasms of the diaphragm, which can also produce the “hic” sound. 

Medications

If your dog has a medical condition, giving it specific medications may irritate a part of your dog, specifically their nerves. For example, muscle relaxants, corticosteroids, opioid pain relievers, and benzodiazepines state that hiccups are among their side effects. Pet owners will need to be responsible for their four-legged friend whenever they get a bout of hiccups whether or not they’re taking medications. 

Irritants

A puppy’s hiccups can also become triggered when they’re exposed to chemical fumes and cigarette smoke. Such air pollutants may irritate their airways and may lead to a respiratory problem or interrupt their normal breathing pattern.  

Underlying Medical Conditions

Dog hiccups can also occur as a result of underlying issues such as gastrointestinal problems, respiratory diseases, kennel cough, acid reflux, breathing problems, inflammatory bowel disease, and brain diseases. Problems with the phrenic and vagus nerves can persist for a long time, so be sure to see your vet if you suspect that your dog’s hiccups are the cause of something more serious.  

Managing Dog Hiccups

If your dog experiences occasional hiccups, there’s usually no need to panic. However, if your dogs have short muzzles, they may be predisposed to a few genetic diseases that may affect their breathing muscles and may result in a rhythmic interruption. But if this isn’t your dog, below are a few things you can do to help manage your pup’s hiccups.      

Give it Some Water

Giving your dog some cold water may be enough to stop its hiccup; drinking will let your dog regulate rapid breathing, which can reduce irritation that may be occurring at the diaphragm. If you do decide to give your pup a little water, be sure to add a drop of honey and maple syrup. Alternatively, you can add one teaspoon of sugar to your dog’s bowl to help.    

Massage Your Dog’s Chest

Because your dog’s hiccups are the result of the forceful contractions of its diaphragm, relaxing this muscle can help to soothe it. Massaging your dog’s chest may help to reduce the contractions around the diaphragm. If this doesn’t stop your dog’s hiccups altogether, it should reduce the intensity of your pup’s hiccups.

Distract Your Dog

If stress is the reason for your dog’s hiccup, distracting it from stressful situations will usually help. Be sure to give your dog interactive food puzzle toys that can help to reduce their hiccup’s intensity. Over time, this should stop the hiccup — there are also many other ways for you to keep your dog’s mind away from stress and anxiety, so be sure to check what works best.

Watch How Your Dog Eats

While this won’t stop hiccups permanently, watching how your dog eats can help to prevent hiccups in the future. Try using a slow feeder to help your dog better control its eating habits — a slow-feeder dog bowl is designed to hold down fast eaters. You can also try low-grain dog food, which can also help to prevent future hiccups. 

Why Do Dogs Get Hiccups?

Dog owners are responsible for both puppies and adult dogs, so when either one gets a hiccup or gets too much air in their lungs and their vocal cords become irritated, it’s important to get to the bottom of it quickly. If needed, make sure to take your pooch to the vet for a physical exam to ensure that all is right with your dog and that there are no underlying issues behind its hiccup.

 

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