When you get the hiccups, it's annoying, but when your dog gets the hiccups, it's adorable. But do dogs find the hiccups as uncomfortable as humans do, and could canine hiccups be a sign of a serious problem?
All dogs can get hiccups from time to time, although puppies are more prone to them than adult dogs. As with human beings, dog hiccups usually aren't serious and go away on their own. Rarely, hiccups may be a sign of a serious underlying condition requiring a visit to the veterinarian. There may be things you can do to help ease your dog's hiccups and prevent him from getting them in the first place.
In both dogs and human beings, the diaphragm is a muscle in the chest cavity that drives respiration. Contraction of the diaphragm causes it to move down, which draws air into the lungs. When the diaphragm contracts, the diaphragm moves back up and pushes the air back out of the lungs. Hiccups occur when the diaphragm spasms, i.e., contracts suddenly and uncontrollably. This causes the glottis, the opening between the vocal cords, to close involuntarily, which results in the "hic" sound.
Scientists aren't entirely sure what causes hiccups in either human beings or dogs. One theory is that they are the result of swallowing too much air. This can happen in dogs when they breathe hard with excitement or when they eat or drink too quickly.
Puppies are very excitable, which may be one reason why they get hiccups more often than adult dogs. Another theory is that a puppy's respiratory and digestive systems are still developing, and this immaturity makes them susceptible to hiccups.
You don't necessarily have to do anything to stop your dog's hiccups. As with human beings, dog hiccups usually go away on their own, and veterinarians do not believe that they cause your pet significant distress. You certainly shouldn't attempt any of the more outlandish folk remedies recommended to cure human hiccups, such as pulling on your dog's tongue or scaring her. These are likely to annoy your dog much more than the hiccups.
Light exercise may help your dog get over the hiccups. You don't want to do anything too strenuous because this might make him swallow more air and compound the problem. Instead, it might be a good idea to get out the leash and take your dog for a short walk.
Because your dog may get the hiccups when she is excited, a nice belly massage may help to calm her down. The slow, smooth motion may also help to relax her diaphragm and relieve the spasm.
It may also help to give your dog a drink of water. Because you do not want him to drink it too quickly, you should use a small bowl . Some veterinarians recommend adding something sweet to the water, such as sugar or honey. The sweetness doesn't do anything to calm the contractions of the diaphragm, but it might provide a distraction that causes the dog's breathing patterns to return to normal. Don't give your dog anything solid to eat, however. If he has a hiccup with something in his mouth, he could choke.
You probably don't need to be too concerned about preventing hiccups if your dog is still a puppy. Like most dogs, she will probably grow out of them as she gets older. If not, you may need to figure out what may be causing the hiccups and take steps to prevent them.
You should try to identify patterns of behavior that cause your dog to get the hiccups. If they occur after exercise, you may want to modify your dog's activities or shorten playtime to prevent him from getting overexcited. You should also avoid exercising your dog in hot temperatures. This can result in heat stroke, which can cause hiccups and other, more serious, respiratory symptoms.
If your dog frequently gets hiccups after eating, it might help to feed her smaller portions at a time. There are also special feeders that force your dog to eat more slowly, which may not only prevent hiccups but other digestive issues as well. Dogs enjoy these feeders because they make mealtime into a game.
If your dog is a large breed, he might be swallowing more air when his food and water dish are too low to the ground and he has to bend down to them. You can get an elevated feeder that raises both dishes to his level. This may prevent him from getting the hiccups.
There are medical conditions that can cause your dog to get the hiccups. These include respiratory issues, gastric problems, and parasites. For example, roundworms and heartworms can take up residence in the respiratory tract and take over the entire system, making it more difficult for your dog to breathe.
You shouldn't panic if your dog gets hiccups because most of the time they are normal and harmless. However, you should pay attention to the hiccups to see how long they last. If it has been several hours and they show no signs of stopping, you should take your dog to the veterinarian right away. You should also take your dog to the vet if she exhibits other troubling symptoms in addition to the hiccups. Look out for respiratory symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, discharge from the nose, or wheezing and gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhea and vomiting.
In most cases, dog hiccups won't last long. Feel free to enjoy the cuteness while it lasts.