The first time a puppy gets the hiccups, their reaction could be anything from a head tilt to barking at the weird noises coming out of their mouth. As a pet parent, our first reaction is usually “Aww, that’s so cute!” But then you might wonder, “Are dog hiccups normal?”
What causes dog hiccups?
Dog hiccups (and people) are caused by involuntary spasms of the diaphragm. The diaphragm is the muscle that separates the chest and abdomen and plays an essential role in normal breathing. The diaphragm usually moves in a regular pattern but during a hiccup, a sudden contraction in the diaphragm pulls in the air quickly, causing the vocal cords to close briefly. This is what makes the characteristic “hic” sound of hiccups. Dr. Ann Hohenhaus, a veterinarian at Animal Medical Center in New York City, told us,
Hiccups are a typical puppy ‘problem’ and they seem to grow out of the hiccups by about 6 months of age.
According to Dr. Hohenhaus, veterinarians can only speculate on the cause — which might be gulping air when eating, excitement, stress, or maybe just a developmental issue most puppies grow out of. In general, hiccups are as normal and harmless for dogs as they are for us, and most dogs will get them at least once in their lifetime.
How to help when your dog has hiccups
“Typically, hiccups are self-limiting and don’t need intervention,” Dr. Hohenhaus said. But, of course, you might want to try to help your dog, and luckily you can use many of the same remedies that you would for yourself. You can try massaging her chest, lightly (and playfully) startling her, or even getting her to do some light exercise. The only risk to note is that while she’s having her hiccup spell, it’s best to not give her any hard treats or foods since hiccups are involuntary and chewing can cause choking.
While most hiccup spells are completely safe, there can be rare cases where hiccups can indicate a serious underlying issue. Keep an eye on your dog and if you notice that her hiccups are lasting for hours or that they’re happening more often than usual, make an appointment to get her checked out by your vet.