When a dog does something human-like, we find it pretty darn cute. The internet is full of photos of dogs sitting at the dinner table, lying under bedcovers with their heads on pillows, and sitting behind the wheel of a car. Dog hiccups can also be endearing.
Dog hiccups even sound like ours, and your dog may jerk slightly while doing it. Perhaps cutest of all, they may look startled and completely bewildered when they hiccup. It's as if they're thinking, "Where did that come from?"
What exactly are hiccups?
Hiccups are more common in puppies than adult dogs. This is because of their high activity levels and excitability. Everything is new and just waiting to be discovered. This includes food.
Puppies are more likely to drink or eat too fast, which can cause hiccups. Their digestive systems are immature and still adjusting to dog food.
Causes of dog hiccups
With the exception of drinking too much beer, the same things that cause us to get hiccups can cause dog hiccups. In addition to eating or drinking too fast, your dog may get hiccups when he's wound up, stressed out, or when he has inhaled something that irritated his respiratory system.
One theory about human hiccups that may also apply to dogs is that our hiccup episodes started when we were still in the womb. Human babies hiccup before they're born. It's thought that this may be Mother Nature's way of getting them to ramp up their respiratory systems in preparation for life outside the womb. The same might be true for puppies.
Puppy hiccups from worms is also a possibility. A worm infestation is even harder on the digestive system than eating too quickly. Your puppy's mother could have passed them on to him before he was born. Puppies should be treated for worms at two, four, six, and eight weeks, followed by monthly treatments.
How to stop dog hiccups
There are a few things you can do to alleviate your dog's hiccups, but the best thing is to just let them subside on their own. There's no cause for alarm unless her hiccups have persisted for more than a few hours. If your dog is riled up, try calming her down.
Sit down and take a few deep breaths yourself first. Then talk calmly to your dog and invite her to sit or lie next to you. See if you can talk her into rolling over so you can give her a tummy rub — nirvana for dogs.
If your dog inhales her meals, try giving her smaller amounts of food but feeding her more frequently. One thing you should not do is give your dog something to eat while she has hiccups. Eating while hiccuping could lead to choking.
What not to do
There's no proof that any of the standard "cures" for human hiccups work on humans, let alone dogs. This includes holding your breath, being frightened, or putting sugar on your tongue. Do not try any of these methods on your dog.
When to go to the vet
Hiccups usually last a short time and then stop as suddenly as they started. However, if your dog's hiccups last more than two or three hours, and especially if he seems distressed, you should bring him to the vet.
It's also time to call the vet if your dog's hiccups are accompanied by or change into a wheezing sound. Call the vet if his breathing becomes irregular or if he's having trouble breathing. Hiccups that won't go away could be a symptom of a more serious respiratory issue like pneumonia or asthma.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.