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Why Do Dogs Get the Hiccups When Sleeping?

Have you ever been hanging out with your dog resting by your side when suddenly, you hear a soft, rhythmic sound interrupting the silence. You look down, only to find your dog experiencing a bout of hiccups. As each little hiccup shakes their body, you can’t help but wonder, is this normal? Why do dogs get the hiccups, especially out of the blue or while they’re sleeping?

Many dog owners have been in this situation, puzzled by their pet’s sudden hiccupping. It’s a common phenomenon, yet it raises several questions about our furry friends’ health and well-being.

Whether you’ve seen your dog hiccup once or it’s a frequent occurrence, you might have concerns. Are hiccups uncomfortable for them? Do they indicate a health issue? Moreover, why do they seem to happen during rest?

This post aims to shed light on the nature of dog hiccups, explaining why they occur, their significance, and when, if ever, they should be a cause for concern. We’ll also discuss why hiccups are particularly common in sleeping dogs and offer some gentle, effective ways to help your dog through them.

Whether you’re a first-time dog owner or have been around dogs for years, understanding hiccups can help you ensure your dog’s comfort and health.

Why Do Dogs Get the Hiccups When Sleeping? Is It Normal?

What are Hiccups?

At their core, hiccups are involuntary contractions of the diaphragm—the muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen and plays a vital role in breathing. When this muscle spasms, it causes a quick intake of air that is suddenly stopped by the closing of the vocal cords, producing the characteristic hiccup sound.

Why Dogs Get the Hiccups

Hiccups are not exclusive to humans; they occur in dogs and many other mammals as well. The mechanism behind hiccups is similar across species: a sudden, involuntary spasm of the diaphragm followed by the abrupt closure of the vocal cords.

The exact reasons why people and dogs get the hiccups is not fully understood. However, there are some theories about what causes hiccups in dogs:

  • Rapid Eating or Drinking: Dogs, especially those with enthusiastic appetites, often eat or drink too quickly. This can lead to the ingestion of air along with their food or water, which can irritate the diaphragm and lead to hiccups.
  • Excitement or Stress: Emotional states can also affect your dog’s diaphragm, causing it to contract suddenly. Whether it’s the excitement of playtime or stress from a loud noise, these emotions can trigger a hiccup response.
  • Temperature Changes: Sudden changes in temperature, such as drinking cold water on a hot day, may also cause the diaphragm to spasm.
Brown puppy sleeping

Hiccups in Puppies

Puppies are more prone to hiccups than adult dogs, and there may be a developmental reason behind this. As puppies grow, their internal organs and systems, including the diaphragm and respiratory system, are still maturing.

This period of growth means their diaphragms are not fully developed and are more susceptible to spasms, often triggered by their high levels of excitement and rapid eating or drinking, which leads to swallowing air.

These bouts of hiccups can be seen as a normal part of their growth and development process. However, as puppies age and their bodies become better regulated, the frequency of hiccups generally decreases.

Overall, hiccups in puppies are usually harmless and tend to resolve on their own without any need for intervention, gradually becoming less frequent as they mature.

Wondering why your dog likes to sleep on you? Check out our post on 6 Reasons Why Your Dog Sleeps On Top of You.

Why Do Dogs Get the Hiccups When Sleeping? Is It Normal?  Title pic with close up of puppy sleeping.
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Are Hiccups Normal in Dogs?

Hiccups can happen to dogs of all ages, though they’re more common in puppies. Typically, a hiccup episode in dogs is short-lived, lasting only a few minutes to an hour. The frequency can vary widely among dogs, with some experiencing them daily and others only occasionally. For most canines, hiccups are an infrequent occurrence, popping up once in a while without any discernible pattern.

It’s also worth noting that, similar to puppies outgrowing their susceptibility to frequent hiccups, adult dogs might experience them less often as they age. The key takeaway for pet owners is that occasional hiccups are normal and usually no cause for concern, as they tend to resolve on their own without any intervention.

Hiccups During Sleep

Hiccups during sleep in dogs may be attributed to several physiological and environmental factors including:

  • Digestive Processes: If a dog eats too close to bedtime, especially a large meal, the process of digestion can continue while they sleep. The movement of food through the stomach and intestines can occasionally irritate the diaphragm, causing hiccups.
  • Dreaming: Dogs enter a REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep phase where they can dream, and their bodies may react to these dreams with twitches, movements, and even hiccups. These are typically normal and indicate that your dog is in a deep sleep state.
  • Temperature Changes: Changes in body temperature or the temperature of the environment where the dog is sleeping can trigger hiccups. This is because temperature variations can affect the diaphragm’s function.
white puppy sleeeping

Tips to Stop Hiccups

While hiccups in dogs are usually harmless and temporary, there are steps pet owners can take to help alleviate them or reduce their frequency.

Immediate Remedies

  • Gentle Belly Rubs: Sometimes, a light massage can help relax your dog’s diaphragm and stop the hiccups. Gently rub your dog’s belly in a soothing manner, which can also help them calm down if they are feeling stressed or anxious.
  • Encouraging Gentle Movement: Taking your dog for a mild walk or engaging in some light play can distract them from the hiccups and may help reset their diaphragm’s rhythm.
  • Water: Offering your dog a small amount of water can help. Just like in humans, swallowing can interrupt the hiccup cycle. Ensure they drink slowly to avoid taking in excess air.
  • Calm Environment: If the hiccups are stress-induced, creating a calm and quiet environment for your dog can help them relax and potentially stop the hiccups.

Long-Term Prevention Strategies

  • Feeding Practices: Avoid feeding your dog immediately before physical activity. Use slow feeder bowls if your dog tends to eat too quickly, as this can help reduce the amount of air ingested during meals.
  • Stress Reduction: Implement regular routines, provide a comfortable resting area, and use positive reinforcement training to help your dog manage stress and excitement, which can, in turn, reduce the likelihood of hiccups.
Dog hiccups - White dog with nose poking out from under the covers.

When to Seek Professional Help

Although most cases of hiccups are not a cause for concern, there are times when consulting with a veterinarian is advisable.

  • Recurrent or Persistent Hiccups: If hiccups continue for several hours without stopping, or if your dog experiences frequent hiccup episodes over several days, it’s a good idea to consult with a veterinarian. Persistent hiccups could indicate an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.
  • Accompanying Symptoms: According to PetMD, hiccups that are accompanied by other symptoms, such as:
    • Coughing,
    • Shortness of breath,
    • Wheezing,
    • Drooling,
    • Vomiting,
    • Lethargy, or
    • A loss of appetite
  • Should be evaluated by a professional. These additional symptoms could point to a more serious health condition requiring medical attention.
  • Behavioral Changes: If your dog seems distressed, uncomfortable, or exhibits any changes in behavior during or after hiccup episodes, it’s wise to seek veterinary advice. Discomfort or pain could be the root cause of the hiccups, and a vet can help identify and treat the underlying problem.

In most cases, hiccups are simply a quirky aspect of canine biology, not unlike the way humans experience them. However, being vigilant about the context in which hiccups occur and any accompanying signs can ensure your dog remains healthy and happy.

When in doubt, a veterinary consultation can provide peace of mind and ensure that any potential health issues are addressed promptly.

Two dogs sleeping on bed together.

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