If there’s one thing most rational people can agree on, it’s that puppies are the cutest things on this planet. Everything they do is completely endearing to us. Even those little puppy hiccups can seem downright adorable. But what causes puppy hiccups and are they anything we need to worry about?
What Are Puppy Hiccups?
Hiccups in puppies, and in adult dogs, are caused by rapid contractions of the diaphragm, the thin muscle that separates a dog’s chest cavity from their abdomen. The diaphragm’s main job is to help dogs inhale and exhale.
When your puppy breathes in, their diaphragm contracts and moves downward, giving their lungs room to expand. When they exhale, their diaphragm relaxes and moves back up into the chest cavity as their lungs contract.
These diaphragm movements are typically very smooth and regular. But from time to time, the diaphragm will spasm, resulting in puppy hiccups. These hiccups are involuntary and once triggered, they tend to repeat several times per minute.
Do Hiccups Hurt When Puppies Get Them?
Admittedly, even if we asked a puppy whether they found hiccups to be painful, it’s doubtful we’d be able to interpret their yip yips. We can tell by observing puppies that having hiccups seems similar for them as it for us: mildly annoying but not painful. And like in people, hiccups in puppies can last anywhere from a few seconds to hours (in rare instances) and typically do not require any type of intervention or treatment.
What Causes Hiccups in Puppies?
Though we are living in the 21st century, researchers are yet to determine why puppies or people experience hiccups. Some theorize that hiccups are a remnant mechanism from when we were developing in utero. Fetal hiccups have been documented in many species and some scientists think that hiccupping is how fetuses “practice” breathing.
Dog hiccups are thought to be a result of a dog swallowing too much air. This often happens when eating dog food or drinking too fast or after a bout of heavy-duty playtime. It is also believed that severe anxiety can also cause hiccups in dogs.
Puppies are more prone to developing hiccups than older dogs and that’s because puppies are so excited and rambunctious, they tend to gulp down a lot more air. Puppies also hiccup when they are startled, cold or tired.
It is also believed that because puppies muscles are weaker and less developed, they are prone to more contractions. It’s normal for puppies to get hiccups often. In fact, some puppies have a bout of hiccups every day. As long as the hiccups only last for a few minutes, there is nothing to worry about.
What to Do When Your Puppy Has the Hiccups
Unfortunately, once hiccups come on, there isn’t really anything you can do for your puppy. You can keep your puppy calm by gently speaking to them and petting them. Don’t allow them to eat or drink during hiccups. Just try and keep them calm. The hiccups should go away within a few minutes.
If your puppy’s hiccups have not gone away after a few minutes and they seem agitated, you can see if they want to lick and ice cube. Sometimes the swallowing reflex can interrupt the hiccups. It’s a good idea to have little cups of dog ice cream (like Frosty Paws) in your freezer for such an occasion.
Light exercise can also help to change your dog’s breathing pattern, so consider taking them into the backyard and walking around with them. And sometimes a good ol’ fashioned belly rub does the trick!
Can Puppy Hiccups be Prevented?
As we mentioned, hiccups and puppies are caused by different things. Sometimes puppies are so excited they start hiccupping. In this case, it’s going to be pretty hard to control your puppy’s excitement, and why would you want to!
But sometimes hiccups are caused when dogs and puppies eat and drink too quickly, resulting in a lot of air gulping. In this instance pet owners may want to get their puppy a slow-feeder bowl. These bowls have ridges and nooks so your pup has to really work at getting the food out. It naturally slows them down.
It’s also a good habit to get into allowing your dog to rest after meals. This will help them swallow less air. Don’t let your puppy play for at least an hour after they eat or even drink a lot of water.
When Should You Worry About Puppy Hiccups?
Puppy hiccups typically go away on their own. In rare cases, they can be a sign of a more serious medical condition such as:
Foreign body ingestion
Nausea and upset stomach
Take your dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible if:
The hiccups last more than a few hours
Your dog is showing signs of pain
Your dog is not eating or drinking
Your dog is drooling excessively
Your dog starts to vomit
The hiccups turn into a wheezing sound
Your dog is having difficulty breathing
Puppy hiccups are usually nothing serious to worry about. They will not cause your puppy any pain or discomfort but will be only annoying. Should the hiccups last or are accompanied by any of the symptoms we have listed, be sure to bring your puppy to the vet as soon as possible.
Here’s How You and Your Puppy Can Breathe Easy!
Having a puppy is one of the best experiences in the world. They just bring us so much joy and laughter! But having a puppy is also a big responsibility and you want to be sure you can provide the absolute best medical care when they need it.
A pet insurance plan ensures your puppy get the care they need when they need it and also ensures you can breathe easy when it’s time to pay the vet bill. Depending on the plan and the provider, you may be able to receive reimbursements for up to 90% of the bill.
Pet Insurance Review wants to help pet owners be responsible by finding the best insurance plans on the market. You shouldn’t have to go broke taking care of your fur babies.
Get a free quote today so you can breathe easy.
- Longhurst, A., Medically reviewed by Ernst, H. PA-C, (2018) Diaphragm Overview. Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/human-body-maps/diaphragm
- DiPietro, J. A., Costigan, K. A., & Voegtline, K. M. (2015). STUDIES IN FETAL BEHAVIOR: REVISITED, RENEWED, AND REIMAGINED. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 80(3), vii–94. https://doi.org/10.1111/mono.v80.3
- Voss, I. (2022). Benefits of a Slow Feeder Bowl. Retrieved from: https://vermontrepublic.org/slow-feed-dog-bowl/
- Heatstroke in Dogs. Retrieved from: https://www.petmd.com/dog/emergency/common-emergencies/e_dg_heat_stroke
- Wooten, S. DVM. (2018) Dog Wheezing: Causes and Treatment Options. Retrieved from: https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/respiratory/dog-wheezing-causes-and-treatment-options