Dog Hiccups: Can Dogs Get Hiccups?

Ever seen your dog’s body jerk with what appeared to be a hiccup? Yes, dogs can get hiccups. Here’s how to recognize dog hiccups, why your dog gets them and what to do about them.

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Have you ever seen your dog’s body jerk with what appeared to be a hiccup? Yes, dogs can get hiccups. A hiccup is described in medical terms as a myoclonus of the diaphragm. A myoclonus is a sudden shock like contraction of a muscle. The diaphragm is the internal muscle between the chest and abdomen.

What Do Dog Hiccups Sound Like?  

Hiccups in dogs look very similar to hiccups in people. There’s a quick jerk or jump of the chest that appears to be involuntary. This is usually repeated several times in a rhythmic pattern. It may be silent, or there may be an audible grunt, squeak or puff of air associated with the hiccup. It has been described as the sound of a drop of water from a leaking faucet. The dog usually appears unperturbed.

dog hiccups
Dog hiccups are a are a rite of passage for puppies. Photo: iStock / Getty Images Plus/ monicadoallo

Why Do Dogs Get Hiccups?

Hiccups, in and of themselves, are a benign phenomenon. They are a rite of passage for puppies, one of those super cute things that they outgrow…like puppy breath. Enjoy both while they last!

Are They Ever Something To Worry About?

Hiccups in adult dogs are way less common, and possibly less benign. The question becomes, is there something new that is irritating one of the nerves involved in the hiccup pathway. These include the phrenic nerve which passes over the heart, the vagus nerve (which travels up the side of the neck), the cervical spinal cord, and the brainstem.

The medical workup for persistent hiccups in an adult dog starts with a physical exam. Initial diagnostic tests generally include x-rays of the chest and abdomen and baseline blood work. Your veterinarian is looking for things like tumors, heart enlargement, stomach issues, hiatal hernia (an abnormality of the diaphragm), and electrolyte derangements in the blood.

Sometimes gastrointestinal diseases like inflammatory bowel disease and reflux esophagitis can trigger hiccups.  If your dog shows any signs associated with these diseases, treatment specific to the underlying disorder should resolve the hiccups as well.

How To Stop Your Dog’s Hiccups

If your hiccuping dog gets a clean bill of health from your veterinarian, there are a few tricks you can try to stop hiccups. Smaller meals more frequently throughout the day, as opposed to fewer, larger meals may help. Distention of the stomach is thought to perhaps tickle the diaphragmatic nerves. Sometimes putting a little sugar on the back of the tongue works. And finally, a finger touch to the back of the throat, similar to what you might do when “pilling” a dog, will sometimes stop hiccups. If all else fails, ask your veterinarian about gabapentin, a neuropathic pain medication which has been used successfully for hiccups in humans.


2 COMMENTS

  1. My adult dog gets hiccups occasionally and it sends him into a panic, as if he’s going to throw up. Mostly they hit in the middle of the night, but sometimes during the day as well. He desperately wants to get outside to eat grass and almost try to outrun them; he pulls so hard on the leash and just plows forward to find more grass. It always takes me a few minutes to realize it’s hiccups and not diarrhea when he doesn’t actually do anything. I can sometimes get him to call down enough to stay inside and let me soothe him through it without the 3am trek through the dark. A spoonful of honey, sometimes diluted and warmed up with water or a bit of yogurt added to it help him calm down and feel better. The vet didn’t find anything wrong and prescribed him an antacid (I think that’s what it was) to take in the moment and recommended having a bit of food before bedtime in case it was acid reflux. I just read the other day that it could be pericarditis, so I’ll have to keep an eye out for that now too.

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