If you’re not expecting it, a puppy that starts to hiccup suddenly can be frightening.
This young creature in your care is doing something unpredictable, and is it a sign of choking, lung issues, or worse?
Don’t worry, there’s no reason to rush to the vet. Just like with humans, puppy hiccups are perfectly natural and tend to go away after a few minutes.
What Causes Puppy Hiccups?
Their process behind hiccups is the same as with humans. Some people think that hiccups can start as early as in the womb, as a way to train lungs to work outside a watery environment.
As your diaphragm contracts repeatedly, your body learns to expand and deflate your lungs – as is necessary for normal oxygen-breathing.
Once your puppy is born, the lungs are developed enough to work as intended. But there are still things that can trigger involuntary diaphragm spasms (more commonly known as hiccups).
The most common causes are eating or drinking too fast, which interrupts the regular breathing rhythm.
Inhaling too much air in an unusual pattern – such as gasping for air while you’re eating – can also trigger hiccups.
For the same reason, energetic puppy play can also lead to the harmless hiccups. If your dog is frightened by unexpected noises, rapid breathing can lead to hiccupping.
Do Only Puppies Hiccup?
If the question is, ‘Why does my puppy always get the hiccups and not my older dog?’ you are asking a good question.
There is nothing wrong with your puppy; it’s just a growing animal that is still learning how to function.
Young dogs don’t know how to pace themselves when eating yet, so they tend to gulp in a large amount of air in between drinking or biting.
In the same way, playing with other puppies can make them exhausted, which eventually results in quick gasps for air and… more hiccups.
As they mature, puppies will have hiccups less and less frequently, until they eventually come to a complete stop. Older dogs only hiccup if they are asthmatic or easily excitable.
Can I Prevent Puppy Hiccups?
If your puppy seems extremely confused or even hindered by their hiccups, it’s only normal that you want to step in and prevent it from happening.
However, it’s important to note that hiccups usually disappear once puppies are between eight months and a year old.
Don’t be worried if your pup is six months old and still hiccupping after they wake up. Hiccups before the one-year mark are so common that some veterinarians classify them as necessary growing pains.
With a laundry list of things your puppy has to learn as a new member of the family (where they can sleep, where it’s okay to do their business, etc.) it’s natural to assume you might have to train them to eat correctly.
As long as they’re drinking milk, they are too young to be trained in any way and should be allowed to follow their own feeding pattern.
When it’s time for the switch to solid foods, you will play a role in keeping the hiccups at bay.
Young animals need plenty of food throughout the day, so don’t serve them their daily portion in one big helping.
Spreading their food throughout the day in smaller portions will help them to feel fuller, and it reduces the gulping down of food.
How to Stop Puppy Hiccups
It’s recommended not to fuss over your puppy when hiccups occur. Just like small children, puppies take their social cues from their caretakers.
If you’re panicking, something is obviously wrong and the puppy will start to panic too. As long as the hiccups don’t last for more than an hour, everything is fine.
If you can’t resist intervening, then offer your puppy some water – sweetened with a bit of honey or maple syrup for flavor – and this can do the trick.
The sweetness might interest them enough to alter their breathing, which can break up the hiccups.
Don’t use refined sugars, since these contain elements that are dangerous for dogs. Gently petting them or slowly rubbing their tummy can also have a soothing effect.
If the hiccups persist for more than an hour, they may be an indicator of something more serious. In this case, it’s prudent to contact a vet who can examine your puppy for any health issues.
Nonetheless, even multiple hiccups per day are no cause for alarm, as long as they’re under the recommended time limit.
Here’s a video explaining more on puppy hiccups.
Overall, the answer to, “Why does my puppy get hiccups?” is very simple. It’s because they are puppies and they’re still adjusting to running, eating, and playing.
Once they’ve reached maturity, hiccups are likely to be a thing of the past.
Feel free to keep playing with your puppies and encouraging them to explore. It will help them grow into happy, healthy adults.