Why Does My Dog Keep Hiccupping and Swallowing?

Why Does My Dog Keep Hiccupping and Swallowing?
Photo by Channey Tang-Ho on Unsplash

If you’re a dog parent, it may be concerning when your dog exhibits even the slightest abnormal behaviour. It can be super cute when your dog hiccups, but excessive swallowing can be concerning. But do either of these pose a problem? When should you be concerned about your dog’s hiccups or excessive swallowing?

In this article, we cover everything you need to know about why your dog hiccups and swallows and whether you should be worried or concerned.

Dog Hiccups: What Do They Mean?

Much like in humans, hiccups are involuntary contractions of the diaphragm. A dog’s diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle that lies between the chest and the abdomen. Much like in humans, when a dog breathes, the diaphragm contracts. When the diaphragm spasms, this is what causes hiccups in dogs, and also humans. Hiccups can happen by accidentally swallowing air or eating and drinking too fast. It can also occur if your dog inhales something unusual. Intensive exercise, play, and fast breathing or panting can also bring on hiccups. According to many sources, it’s actually not known why mammals like dogs and humans get hiccups.

Hiccups are much more common in puppies than adult dogs, since puppies have an eagerness to eat, drink, and play. They’re more likely to indulge in crazy play, have sudden bursts of energy, and scarf down their food and water. A puppy’s organs, including its diaphragm, aren’t as matured as an adult dog’s, which can lead to more hiccups.

If your dog gets hiccups every once in a while, it’s generally nothing to be concerned about. Hiccups typically only last a few minutes in a dog. Hiccups aren’t typically troublesome or concerning. If your dog’s hiccups aren’t subsiding after several minutes, try giving them peanut butter or honey. A stickier treat that helps engage their breathing can get the hiccups under control. You can also try a walk around the neighbourhood or engage in play. Distraction and movement can often get rid of the hiccups.

If you are still concerned it’s worth checking in with a professional vet so they can assess your dog’s hiccups or excessive swallowing, they’ll be able to check for any underlying causes.

The following may help calm your dogs hiccups

It can be a frightening experience but below are some tricks that may help calm their hiccups:

Steadying your dog’s breathing

Getting your dog to lie down on their back and giving them a nice massage, belly rub, or pets, can help steady their breathing. This can help their diaphragm to stop spasming.

Drinking water

Just like drinking water can help with the hiccups in humans, it can do the same for dogs. Dogs are intuitive creatures and if you present fresh water for them while they’re hiccuping, they’ll be inclined to drink it, which can help them control their breathing and as a result, eliminate their hiccups.

Slow feeder bowls

Dogs or puppies that eat too fast are the most likely to get hiccups. A slow feeder bowl can be used to feed your pup dinner and slow their food. They also provide a great form of enrichment, much like a food puzzle!

Persistent or frequent hiccups can be indicative of a more serious problem, including respiratory illnesses or defects, pneumonia, asthma, heatstroke, or pericarditis. If hiccups occur frequently or for more than several hours, or if your dog’s hiccups produce wheezing or irregular breathing, give your vet a call.

Dog Swallowing: What Does It Mean?

Excessive swallowing is usually a result of constant licking. Licking can become a compulsive behaviour in dogs that usually results from neurological issues, anxiety, stress, or pain. Maybe your dog loves licking your face, your furniture, their toys, your other pets, or even the floor. Though no dog should lick all the time.

Swallowing is usually a symptom of licking.

If your dog keeps swallowing, it could mean that something is going on behaviorally, mentally, neurologically, or physically. While hiccups don’t necessarily pose a threat, swallowing can be a sign of something more serious.

Here are some common causes of swallowing and licking

Below may be some reasons to explain your dog’s excessive swallowing and licking:

Nausea

Your dog can obsessively lick in an attempt to relieve itself of nausea. If you suspect your dog is nauseous, offer them some plain rice and chicken until the nausea subsides. If it persists, either switch out their dog food or call your vet.

Acid reflux or esophagitis

Believe it or not, dogs can get acid reflux too. Esophagitis is a result of acid reflux. Esophagitis occurs when the oesophagus becomes inflamed, usually due to acid reflux. Difficulty swallowing, hesitance with food, regurgitation, or visible discomfort can be signs of acid reflux. Contact your vet if you observe these symptoms.

Your dog may be trying to vomit

If your dog is constantly swallowing or licking, it can be a sign they’re trying to vomit. We usually notice dogs eat grass outside when they’re feeling nauseous, so licking the furniture indoors may be their way of doing exactly that. If you suspect your dog is nauseous, call your vet immediately.

Neurological issues

Neurological issues in dogs can cause obsessive licking and swallowing. Your dog’s seemingly harmless habit may be a sign of something more serious. Contact your vet if you suspect your dog is having neurological issues.

Behavioural issues

When dogs are stressed or anxious, this can cause them to obsessively lick and swallow as well. It can become a compulsive behaviour. Consider changes in your dog’s environment and their activity levels. It can be a reaction to their environment. Try to make your dog feel as comfortable as possible.

Physical pain

Oftentimes, when dogs lick and swallow, it can be a sign of physical pain, usually related to dental diseases or issues, like gingivitis or a bad tooth. Check your dog’s teeth and take them to the vet if their mouth looks a little funny.

  • Gagging or retching.
  • Regurgitation.
  • Frantic attempts at swallowing.
  • Drooling.
  • Abnormal appetite, either very hungry or not at all.
  • Regurgitation or storing food in the mouth.
  • Coughing.

While your dog’s hiccups and swallowing might be concerning, it’s generally nothing a trip to the vet can’t fix. Observe your dog’s behaviour and actions and document it so you can give your vet a full breakdown of what’s been going on. They’ll be able to get your dog back to normal!

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