Why does my puppy have hiccups?

Puppy hiccups are perfectly normal. Although some puppies may not get them very much, others may seem to always have them or they may even be an everyday occurrence, particularly after they eat or during sleep. But why do puppies get hiccups, can you stop them and when should you be worried about them?

What are hiccups?

Under your puppy’s ribs sits a large dome-shaped muscle, called the diaphragm. The diaphragm helps with breathing, pulling air into the lungs and pushing it back out again. As with any muscle, the diaphragm can occasionally spasm. When the diaphragm spasms, it contracts, rapidly pulling air into the lungs and causing a sharp intake of breath. As the air rushes towards the lungs, it quickly passes through the opening between the vocal cords, causing them to snap shut, making the familiar ‘hic’ noise.

Do puppies get hiccups?

Yes, both puppies and fully-grown dogs can get hiccups, although it’s a lot more common in puppies than it is in adults. Having hiccups is usually a natural part of being a puppy, just as it is with small babies. Hiccups may be a little annoying for your poor puppy, but they’re not usually anything to worry about, unless they’re accompanied by other signs, or they continue for a long time.

What do puppy hiccups look like?

Puppy hiccups look and sound very similar to a human’s (a gentle but abrupt rhythmical sound that usually goes on for a few minutes). They’re also quite distinctive from coughing, being sick, regurgitating or reverse sneezing. With hiccups, your puppy shouldn’t have any other effects, such as breathing problems or vomiting. If you’re ever in doubt and are concerned about your puppy’s health, always contact your vet for advice.

Is it common for puppies to get hiccups?

Puppy hiccups are very common. Dogs of any age can experience hiccups, but they tend to affect younger dogs more often, even affecting puppies growing in the womb. Interestingly, hiccups aren’t limited to dogs and humans, they’ve been reported in cats, rats, rabbits and horses.

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Why does my puppy get hiccups?

Puppies can get hiccups if they eat too much, get cold, eat or drink too quickly, if something irritates their throat or if they’re tired, excited or stressed. Hiccups are a natural part of being a puppy but we don’t fully understand why puppies, adult dogs or even humans hiccup.

Current theories include:

  • It’s a reflex that’s left over from being in the uterus. This reflex could allow the muscles around the lungs and throat to develop and be tested while in the womb
  • They’re caused by an increase in pressure in the stomach. This could be from eating too much food or from filling the stomach with air after eating and drinking too quickly or gulping down air during exercise
  • Hiccups are a way of relieving gas from the stomach
  • Hiccups could be related to food intolerances or irritation of the stomach
  • Low levels of carbon dioxide in the blood
  • Puppies are more prone to hiccups because their organs and digestive system are still developing

Hiccups that go on for days or weeks can sometimes be a sign of infection, trauma, tumours or a number of other health issues. In fact, in humans, over 100 different causes of long-term hiccups have been identified.

Are hiccups bad for puppies?

Hiccups are not usually bad for puppies and are a natural part of growing up. They may be annoying and surprising for your puppy, but they’re unlikely to hurt or stress them. Very rarely, chronic hiccups or hiccups that are accompanied by other effects could be a sign of another health issue. But most of the time they’re just a minor inconvenience.

How to get rid of puppy hiccups?

Hiccups usually go away by themselves, so, providing that your puppy isn’t upset or in pain, just let them get on with enjoying life. If your puppy is hiccupping, try to avoid feeding them until after they’ve returned to normal. Giving them food while they’re hiccupping could cause them to choke, especially if they’re eating something small and hard. There’s no guaranteed way of stopping hiccups in dogs, but if they’ve been going on for a while, you could try:

  • Relaxing them with a belly rub, a stroke or a massage
  • Giving them a drink of water (make sure they drink it slowly rather than gulping it down)
  • Give them some gentle exercise, such as a relaxing walk around the garden
  • Give them something to play with, such as a ball or a squeaky toy

Some old wives’ tales suggest that to cure hiccups you could pull on your tongue, put your fingers in your ears, press on your eyes or be given a shock. These should never be tried on a dog of any age.

If you’re worried about your puppy’s hiccups, or if they meet any of our guidelines for when to be concerned, contact your vet for advice.

How to prevent puppy hiccups

Hiccups are a natural part of life for many puppies, so it’s very difficult to prevent them completely, but you can reduce the chances of them happening. These hints and tips can help to prevent hiccups but are also good strategies to help to prevent bloat, a life-threatening disorder caused by a dog’s stomach filling with gas and becoming twisted.

Feeding

  • Give your puppy smaller more frequent meals, (this can stop their stomach from becoming distended)
  • Slow down mealtimes and make them more fun by using a puzzle feeder/slow feeder. These feeders have different surfaces, textures and obstacles that make your dog really work for their meal. By slowing down your dog’s feeding, it prevents them from wolfing down food too quickly and swallowing lots of air
  • Make sure you’re giving them the correct amount of food. Feeding them too much could cause them to develop hiccups

Exercising

  • Try not to exercise or play with your puppy for around an hour after eating. This should give them plenty of time to digest their food, taking the pressure off their diaphragm
  • Some puppies get hiccups during exercise, but it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons of limiting exercise to prevent hiccups. All puppies should be given the opportunity to exercise because it’s a vital part of their physical and mental development. Limiting their play and exercise may not be helpful to your puppy, especially if they’re not really affected by their hiccups

Drinking

  • Hiccups can be caused by drinking too quickly and taking too much air into their stomach. Try experimenting with the height and shape of the water bowl you give them or consider buying an anti-gulp water bowl

When to see the vet if your puppy has hiccups

Puppy hiccups are common and are usually harmless. Very rarely, they could be a sign of other health issues, so contact your vet if:

  • They go on longer than a few hours
  • Your puppy seems in pain
  • They’re not eating or drinking
  • Your puppy shows signs of breathing problems, coughing, sneezing or a runny nose
  • Your puppy keeps getting hiccups (several times a day)
  • They show other signs, such as dribbling, diarrhoea, vomiting, blood in their poo, unusual tiredness or exercise intolerance

Can worms cause puppy hiccups?

Sometimes, regularly having hiccups or having hiccups that go on for a long time can be a sign of worms. If your puppy does have worms, it’s unlikely they’d just have hiccups but would have other effects as well, such as vomiting, diarrhoea (possibly with blood or worms in it), a swollen tummy or tiredness. If you suspect your puppy may have worms, contact your vet for advice. To try to prevent worms, make sure that your puppy is up-to-date with the worming schedule that your vet recommended.

Why does my puppy keep having hiccups?

It’s common for young puppies to have hiccups, but some may get them more often than others. We don’t know why puppies are more prone to hiccups than adults, but it could be because of their levels of enthusiasm. Puppies often eat in a rush, drink quickly or speed around excitedly, gulping down excess air in the process. Most puppies will grow out of this, but if you’re concerned about your dog’s health then always speak to a vet for advice.

When do puppy hiccups stop?

Dogs can have hiccups at any age, but they’re more likely to have them when they’re young. Young puppies are particularly prone to hiccups, but these bouts tend to decrease from 4 months onwards.

Why does my puppy have hiccups after eating?

Puppies often get hiccups after they’ve eaten too quickly or they’ve eaten too much. The link between food and hiccups isn’t fully understood, but it’s believed to be related to having a fuller stomach, either from excess air after wolfing down a meal or from too much food. Try to encourage your puppy to eat more slowly by using a puzzle feeder or feeding them smaller amounts more often.

Why does my puppy have hiccups while sleeping?

Some puppies hiccup while they sleep, but currently, nobody knows why. Some suggest that it could be:

  • Because they’re relaxed and are more likely to swallow more air
  • It’s just a natural reflex
  • It could be because the puppy is having a nightmare and the hiccups are brought on by stress

Whatever the reasons, hiccups during sleep are unlikely to wake them up or bother them.

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