Dog hiccups are cute, but should you be worried? Does it have any underlying conditions that may be a cause for concern? Most of the time, dog hiccups are perfectly normal and will resolve themselves in a few minutes. However, once the hiccups start to last for hours and begin to affect your dog’s quality of life, you should consider taking your fur baby to the vet.
Understanding dog hiccups
We’ll first look at the anatomy involved in the respiration process of dogs to know more about their hiccups. When your dog breathes in, the diaphragm contracts and moves downward to make more room in the chest cavity for the lungs to expand. The diaphragm relaxes and moves up the chest cavity once your dog exhales.
If the diaphragm spasms, it interrupts this smooth internal process, resulting in dog hiccups. But what can cause these spasms? Let’s look at a few of them.
What causes dog hiccups?
Common causes of dog hiccups include:
- Eating & drinking quickly
- Stomach gas
- Spicy, hot, or cold food
Eating or drinking too quickly
When your pooch is eating or drinking too quickly, they’re most likely going to swallow more air and start to hiccup. This sudden air intake, otherwise known as aerophagia, will cause stomach distention and irritate the muscle diaphragm, causing it to contract.
You should also refrain from giving your dog extremely hot or cold food as these will irritate the esophagus and its phrenic and vagus nerves, which also cause dog hiccups.
Stress and overexcitement
Stress and overexcitement can also induce hiccups in dogs. Their heart rate and cortisol levels increase, which will then irritate the diaphragm. They’ll also take shorter and shallower breaths due to stress and excitement. They’ll then start breathing using their chest instead of their diaphragm.
In some cases, dog hiccups can be good for your dog. Hiccups are one way for the body to get rid of excess gas in the stomach.
Eating spicy food is another common cause of dog hiccups. Spicy treats will always cause stomach gas. It will lead to excessive thirst, and it might prompt them to drink water too quickly. Lastly, capsaicin, a common ingredient in spicy food with chili, will encourage neuron activity in the diaphragm, causing contractions that lead to hiccups.
Medications like corticosteroids, benzodiazepines, and antibiotics may also induce hiccups in dogs. These medicines can irritate the esophagus and cause acid reflux.
All of these factors will cause normal dog hiccups. However, under rare circumstances, these hiccups can be caused by other serious underlying issues like:
- Esophageal tumors
- Respiratory defects
If your dog’s hiccups last for more than an hour and start to have irregular or labored breathing, it’s best to take it to the vet. If possible, try recording the incident as this will help your vet get a clearer picture of the severity of the condition of your dog.
How to Get Rid of Dog Hiccups
Normal hiccups usually last around 10 to 15 minutes to up to an hour. While it’s no cause for immediate concern, you still want to get rid of this discomfort.
So how do you get rid of dog hiccups? Before doing anything else, always consider what prompted the hiccups in the first place. Knowing what triggered it will inform you what to do next.
If your dog accidentally ate spicy food, give them milk that contains casein. Casein is a protein that breaks down capsaicin in the spicy treat that irritates the diaphragm.
Calm Them Down
Try relaxing your dog while they’re dealing with hiccups by making them lie down and giving belly rubs. This may hopefully slow down their breathing pattern and bring it to a steady rhythm. If your dog is dealing with stress like separation anxiety, you can do the same method. However, you might want to train your dog to manage their separation anxiety to lessen the instances of their hiccups.
Rice, Grains, & Bread
Another potential cure for dog hiccups is having your pooch eat food like rice, grains, and bread. These can get rid of the hiccups as they can swell in the stomach and cause distention. In turn, it places pressure on the diaphragm to prevent hiccups from occurring.
If the cause of the hiccup is diaphragm irritation, give your dog something cool to drink. It can also restore their normal breathing pattern, as well as bring down their temperature if they’re heavily panting due to heat or exhaustion.
Another effective way of calming your dog down and bringing their breathing pattern to normal levels is giving them liquid sweets. Honey or maple syrup are good options as their sweetness may distract your dog from stress and overexertion.
Do not give them solid sweets. Since dog hiccups are involuntary, solid food might cause choking. Moreover, do not give them sugar-free products as they contain xylitol, which can be dangerous and even fatal to your dog.
Slow Feeder Dog Bowls
Try using a slow-feeder dog bowl to prevent your dog from eating too quickly. This will also help them control their food intake and avoid gaining extra pounds, which can create a host of problems of their own.
When to Call Your Vet
As mentioned earlier, hiccups lasting for an hour can be a sign of different health issues. Consult with your vet once the hiccups won’t stop or disappear to prevent your dog from having more health complications.
For more dog health information, visit the TPLOInfo blog.