hiccupping is an involuntary reaction in which the diaphragm contracts, pulling air into the lungs and closing the epiglottis, causing the familiar 'hic' sound. As such humans are not the only ones that can hiccup! In fact, any mammal or animal with a diaphragm can.
Birds, amphibians, reptiles, and many other animals without diaphragms can exhibit behavior similar to hiccupping, but as they have breathing mechanisms other than diaphragms, they cannot hiccup in the same way that humans and other animals do. Amphibians gulp in a way that is similar to hiccupping in order to keep water out of their lungs. There are hypotheses out there that claim that human hiccupping is an evolutionary remnant of amphibian gulping from our very distant ancestors. Mammalian fetuses perform a similar gulp to that of amphibians before their respiratory systems are developed.
All mammals can hiccup, but it is not always correct to say that they do so. The word ‘hiccup’ is an onomatopoeia – the word is what it is because of the ‘hic’ sound that is associated with it. When other animals hiccup, it does not necessarily produce the same sound. For example, in horses, due to the associated sound, a hiccup is called a ‘thump’ and in kittens, they are often silent.
If you have a pet that hiccups frequently, there is not too much to be done. The most important thing is to realize that, even though it may seem like your pet is experiencing discomfort, they are fine and it will most likely pass on its own. If your pet gets them very frequently, has them for more than 30 minutes at a time, or seems like they are gagging or coughing as well, it’s probably not a bad idea to take them to the vet. Occassionaly concerned owners will be recommended to give their pets appropriate doses of gas-x, tums, or other human medications that may have a positive impact. It is highly recommended that you do not try any such treatment before consulting your veterinarian. The chances are that your pet is absolutely fine, and giving animals medications intended for humans (or any medications they have not been prescribed) can have serious adverse consequences. All that being said, the following has been suggested to help cure hiccupping in dogs.
Dog hiccups are very common - especially in puppies. There is little or no research that has been done into what causes them, but it is commonly believed that they are caused for similar reasons as in humans. Three more commonly reported reasons are eating too quickly, excitement, and food that is high in grain. Dogs, especially puppies, can frequently get highly excited, whether its time to eat, play, or when somebody new is around. They may eat (or drink) exceedingly quickly, swallowing air along the way. Air trapped in the stomach can cause the hiccups. High levels of excitement leading to quick shallow breathing and lots of barking can irritate the throat and diaphragm; also a prime cause.
The main thing to out for with a hiccupping dog, is conditions which look the same, but are not. Reverse sneezing, for instance, is a serious condition that occurs when dogs breathe in through their noses in quick, uncontrollable movements. A dog that coughs continuously or one that has the hiccups for an extended period of time is also something to look out for. So now that that is all said and done, while it is certainly easier to cure them when you have them, these actions, designed to alter your dogs breathing, can potentially help.
- If your dog gets hiccups frequently, it may be something in their food that is bothering them. Make sure your are feeding your dog a high quality food that is low in grains.
- Give your dog water – often a drink is enough to make the hiccups go away.
- Exercise with your dog. Take your dog on a run, play fetch with them, or engage them in any other high-intensity activity. The change in your dog’s breathing and heart-rate may make the hiccups go away.
- Feed your dog. A meal will temporarily change your dog’s breathing pattern.
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