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My Dog Keeps Hiccupping and Swallowing: What to Do?

Hiccupping in dogs is caused by a rapid contraction of the diaphragm. This is the primary muscle involved in breathing that sits between the dog’s chest cavity and the abdomen.

When dogs breathe, the diaphragm contracts deeper into its abdomen to make space in the lungs for the air being taken in. When they breathe out, the diaphragm releases upwards, pushing the air upwards as their lungs contract. 

The diaphragm’s movement is smooth and involuntary. 

When the diaphragm spasms or contracts suddenly it results in a hiccup. It is a small spasm that causes slight, quick movements in the chest cavity and a short “hic” sound. 

Hiccups are also involuntary. When they start, they cause a reflex in the body that makes the diaphragm contract upwards leading to the closure of the “glottis” in the vocal cords. 

This closure causes the “hic” sound. 

The repeated contraction or “myoclonic start” of the diaphragm can repeat several times in a minute and this determines the frequency of the hiccups.

My Dog Keeps Hiccuping And Swallowing

Dogs experience a combination of hiccuping and swallowing when they are having acid reflux alternatively known as a gastroesophageal influx. This is the main cause of the swallowing and occasional throat spasms that accompany hiccuping.

The swallowing can sound like rapid gulping. Dogs can gulp and hiccup like this every 15 to 30 seconds after eating a meal experiencing acid reflux. This hiccuping and swallowing behavior can last an hour or longer. 

There are several steps you can take to ease your dog’s hiccuping and swallowing. 

The first thing to try is to look at what you are feeding your dog. Their food can cause acid reflux, resulting in this behavior.

Dog Keeps Hiccuping And Swallowing

What to Do About Hiccuping and Swallowing in Dogs

Dogs swallow rapidly to push down acids when they are having oesophageal reflux. This should not be ignored as swallowing the acid can damage your dog’s esophageal lining, causing inflammation.

Contact your vet immediately if your dog is experiencing acid reflux. 

Acid reflux can be caused by several digestive issues in your dog:

  • A hiatal hernia where the top of your dog’s stomach bulges through an opening in the diaphragm.
  • A damaged or weakened sphincter is caused in birth or surgery.
  • Intolerance of the food they have eaten.
  • Being allergic to certain ingredients in the food.
  • Metabolic diseases and poor digestion.
  • Liver or kidney failure.
  • Obesity.
  • Your dog’s stomach is not being emptied properly.

Symptoms of Acid Reflux

You can be sure that your dog is having acid reflux if they show all or most of these symptoms:

  • Constant licking and gagging.
  • Hiccups and licking of lips.
  • Audible gulping the air.
  • Undigested food is regurgitated.
  • Heaving and panting after a meal.
  • Pacing up and down after a meal.
  • Throwing up bile.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Anorexia.
  • Eating grass excessively.
  • Depression.
Symptoms of Acid Reflux

Why Is My Dog Hiccuping And Gagging?

If your dog’s hiccuping and swallowing has become gagging it indicates chronic acid reflux. If the gagging persists for more than a month or two, your dog can develop esophagitis or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

While the main cause of hiccuping and gagging is acid reflux there can be more underlying causes:

  • Your dog has an infection.
  • Your dog is taking certain medication that causes hiccups.
  • Your dog may have ingested a caustic chemical that corrodes its esophageal lining.
  • The ingestion of foreign bodies.
  • Anesthesia from a recent medical.[1]

There are several treatment options if your dog is suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease, including pre and probiotics, digestive enzymes, and chiropractic adjustment. 

These must be prescribed by a vet.

My Dog Is Hiccuping, Is This Normal?

Yes, it’s perfectly normal for dogs to experience hiccups. If your dog is hiccuping, you should consider your dog’s age. Older dogs have different reasons for having hiccups than puppies.

Hiccups are normal for dogs. Most of the time, they’re perfectly safe and nothing to worry about. Different aged dogs experience hiccups for different reasons.

When puppies hiccup, it can be because they are still growing and their stomach moves a lot. This is the same in human babies. These stomach movements can cause spasms and hiccups after they have just eaten and it is nothing to be alarmed about.

Your puppy can also experience hiccups if they eat too fast, inhaling their food. If this happens often, you can get a slow feeder bowl that forces them to slow down. 

Drinking too much water or drinking too quickly can also cause hiccups for puppies. Lessen the water in their bowl to deal with this.

My Dog Is Hiccuping

Hiccups or Reverse Sneezing?

Dogs can experience other involuntary action that resembles hiccups. One example is “reverse-sneezing” which is when dogs inhale suddenly and without control, like a reversed sneeze.

Reverse sneezing is a medical condition called paroxysmal respiration. Simply put, the dog rapidly pulls air into the nose, while in a regular sneeze they rapidly push air out of the nose. 

When this happens, dogs make a snorting sound and look like they are breathing in while sneezing.

During a reverse sneeze, the dog stands still and extends its head and neck. The dog may sound like they have something caught in their nose or throat but after one or two reverse sneezes they should be fine. 

An episode of this can last a few seconds to a minute.

What Causes A Reverse Sneeze?

Several things can cause a reverse sneeze. It can be caused by an irritation of the nose, the sinuses, or the back of the throat. Irritants can be foreign bodies like pollen, seeds, grass, allergies, smoke, odors or nasal mites, and other secretions.

Studies show that dogs with narrower nasal passages i.e. longer noses are affected more often by reverse sneezing than other dogs. A reverse sneeze is not inherently harmful and a dog should be fine before and after it.

Persistent reverse sneezing can be a symptom of other issues:

  • An upper respiratory tract infection
  • A collapsing trachea
  • Nasal tumors or polyps
  • Foreign bodies in the mouth and nose

You can take your dog to the vet for allergy and blood tests or X-rays to rule out the possibility of these issues. The vet can also prescribe decongestant, anti-inflammatory, or antihistamine medication.

Hiccups or Reverse Sneezing

How To Treat Reverse Sneezing At Home

There is no medical treatment for reverse sneezing. You can rub your dog’s neck to soothe them during an episode. When they exhale through the nose, the attack should be over. Your dog should not experience any complications following a normal reverse sneeze.

What Is Causing My Dog’s Hiccups?

The causes of hiccups in dogs are similar to those in humans. 

Humans often experience hiccups due to rapid breathing or severe anxiety. Similarly in dogs, hiccups ensue when they take in a lot of air too quickly. 

Dogs can also get hiccups in the following scenarios:

  1. Eat or drink water too quickly.
  2. Eat high-grain food.
  3. Experience some agitation.
  4. Engage in heavy play.
  5. Inhale something that irritates their throat.

Should You Be Worried About Your Dog’s Hiccups?

Hiccups don’t hurt dogs. Your dog should not show any signs of stress, anxiety, or pain before, during, or after a hiccup. Their hiccuping episodes generally last for three minutes but can last up to three hours in extreme cases.

You should be worried about your dog’s hiccups if:

  • The hiccups go on for more than three hours.
  • It looks like they are in pain.
  • Your dog is drooling excessively.
  • Your dog starts to vomit.
  • The hiccups become a wheezing sound.
  • Your dog is having difficulty breathing.

It can be a sign of disease if your dog is having hiccups for multiple consecutive days.

Should You Be Worried About Your Dog’s Hiccups

Asthma

Dogs can have hiccups before an asthmatic attack. In this case, the hiccups cannot be cured. Your dog is likely to experience these hiccups throughout its life even if they are on asthma treatment.

Other Respiratory Issues

Dogs can have respiratory defects because of age, obesity, or having been born with it. When they struggle to breathe, they can swallow rapidly and trigger hiccups as they struggle to breathe. 

Treating a respiratory defect requires veterinary attention.

Pneumonia

Pneumonia can develop suddenly in dogs. It is manifested with the same symptoms as a respiratory defect. Dogs with pneumonia struggle to breathe, resulting in constant hiccups. This issue should be treated with prescribed antibiotics.

Heart problems

Dogs hiccup and swallow constantly when they suffer from a heart condition like pericarditis. This is caused by inflammation around the sac that holds the heart in place. When this sac is swollen, it puts pressure on the heart making it hard for dogs to breathe. 

This results in hiccuping and gulping.

Heatstroke

When your dog’s body becomes excessively hot it causes extreme discomfort. This can trigger dogs to swallow rapidly to cool themselves down, resulting in hiccups. You can relieve your dog with water.

Ingestion Of Foreign Bodies

Dogs can experience hiccups when swallowing big or sharp objects. These are known as esophageal foreign bodies. 

These normally get stuck in two places in the esophagus; at the base of the heart or near the diaphragm. This can lead to exaggerated swallowing, coughing, drooling, and gagging which can lead to hiccups.

Nausea

When a dog is nauseous, they start to drool and need to swallow more often to prevent their mouth from flooding with saliva. This rapid swallowing causes hiccups. They can also start licking everything else around them. Consult your vet for a remedy.

Gastrointestinal upset

Common symptoms of stomach issues include vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy but it can also include drooling and hiccuping.

How To Treat Your Dog’s Hiccuping

If your dog is getting hiccups often, you can do the following to lessen them:

Provide Water

Give your dog water when they experience hiccuping and swallowing. This should be your first response.

Change Their Diet

A change in diet can help prevent future episodes of hiccuping and swallowing. Feed your dog more low-grain food as hiccups can be induced by eating too much grain. Keep an eye on your dog to make sure they don’t eat anything other than the food you serve. Eating foreign objects can cause hiccuping.

Introduce More Physical Activity

By doing more physical activities, your dog will experience a change in breathing rate and pattern. They also get more in shape. This can help prevent future episodes of hiccuping, as they are often triggered by rapid breathing. 

Let Your Dog Chew More

You can give your dog a stuffed toy or a little bit of food to chew to interrupt their hiccups.

Add Something Sweet

Adding something sweet to your dog’s water is also worth a try. The sweetness can distract them from the hiccups and calm them down. This can lead to their diaphragm relaxing as well.

How To Treat Your Dog’s Hiccuping

My Dog Is Hiccuping And Licking Everything

If your dog is having hiccups and licking everything, it can mean there is something itchy or painful in their mouth. This can be an oral disease affecting their tongue, gums, or the inside of their mouth.

Dogs most often start hiccuping and licking after they’ve eaten. This can be due to irritation in their mouth following the meal.

A quick remedy for this is brushing your dog’s teeth. This way you can decrease the build-up of plaque and remove anything stuck in their gums. 

If your dog allows you, you can also open their mouth wide and take a look around or do a quick swipe of the inside of their mouth with your finger.

You should contact your vet if it carries on for long or happens after every meal. Do not ignore it as excessive licking can result in skin irritation.

My Dog Is Hiccuping And Licking Everything

Dog Hiccuping And Licking Lips

Your dog can have hiccups and then constantly lick its lips after a meal. The licking is abnormal when it happens non-stop for a minute or longer and is accompanied by swallowing. 

Dogs often lick their lips, especially after eating. Short episodes of this are nothing to worry about, but extended episodes can be a sign of issues.

If your dog is doing this while sitting up while also heaving and having throat spasms, they may be having an esophageal irritation. This can be caused by acid reflux or ingesting foreign bodies.

If the swallowing and gulping become frantic, your dog is experiencing the burning of their acid reflux or the irritation of ingesting something they should not have. The acid is either coming up from their stomach or their intestines. 

When acid is regurgitated and flows up your dog’s esophagus, it is uncomfortable and painful. They swallow rapidly because they are trying to soothe the painful irritation in their throat.

Conclusion

If your dog has a hiccupping episode and it ends on its own, you have no reason to worry. Only when your dog’s hiccups are accompanied by other uncomfortable behaviors like swallowing, gulping, and excessive licking should you be concerned.

If your dog shows all of these symptoms, it may be suffering from a single episode of acid reflux or have GERD. 

Contact your vet first before administering any home remedies or medication.

About Dennis Stapleton

Dennis Stapleton has a passion for animals, especially dogs, and their relatives. He’s intrigued by their social structure and loves to write and teach about the world's most popular pet animal.