No one likes to see their dog scared, nervous, or uncomfortable. There is no explaining the overwhelming emotions you feel when your pet has panic attacks, and especially because of something like hiccups. It not only makes you feel powerless as a pet owner—it’s also heartbreaking!
A little bit of anxiety or stress in life is and can be normal. However, these become a problem when your dog’s reaction to hiccups becomes extreme and/or persistent.
If you’re reading this article, then you’ve likely been asking, “Why is my dog afraid of hiccups?”
The answer is that dogs have a heightened sense of hearing; they can hear about four times the distance of a human with normal hearing. If hiccups activate the fight or flight response in your dog and stir up feelings of imminent danger that are out of proportion in him or her, it may be likely that the sound of the hiccups is causing emotional distress due to sound sensitivity.
Read on to find out a bit more information on why your dog may be reacting this way and what you can do about it.
Understanding Your Dog’s Fear
Fear is a tricky thing. It is nothing more than a state of mind, and you need to understand that it is a common problem for dogs to be fearful about quite a few things, some of them even unreasonable (to us) or unusual. Dogs can be afraid of anything from loud vehicles and fireworks to something as silly as a particular squeaky toy.
It is important to know the signs and symptoms of a fearful dog though because it goes a long way in helping you address your furry loved one’s fears and phobias before they escalate.
If you’ve noticed a fearful behavior pattern in your dog, particularly whenever he or she hiccups or when any of your family members hiccups around them, it’s very likely that they have a phobia of the sound, and it may be time to intervene before it gets any worse. Hiccups are a nearly unavoidable part of life, so it would be hard to prevent your dog from ever being exposed to the sound if it becomes a genuine trigger for anxiety and panic.
Why Do Dogs Get The Hiccups?
Eating or drinking too fast
Food obsession is a real thing in dogs, and it can drive you both a little crazy. Our furry friends tend to get very, very excited when it’s time for dinner because they love chowing down so much. If they’ve been playing outside on a hot day and come in for some cold, fresh water, they’ll definitely be trying to chug down as much as possible to cool off with no concern for potential consequences.
Sometimes, eating or drinking too quickly can cause the diaphragm to spasm, resulting in — you guessed it — hiccups.
They have swallowed too much air
This cause often goes hand in hand with eating too quickly. If your dog swallows too much air, he or she may start to hiccup.
That air that’s been swallowed by your dog may as well be the equivalent of a shaken bottle of carbonated beverage, and it needs to escape somehow. If it doesn’t come out with a burp or by other more smelly means, it may manifest as hiccups.
They are excited or scared
Dogs love to experience all kinds of fun stuff at every chance they get. There’s no denying their energy when playing fetch, searching for a hidden treat, or running through an obstacle course—these are great ways to stimulate your dog’s mind! They may also get overstimulated if in a fearful or threatening situation, whether legitimate or them simply being scared of going through a car wash while still inside the vehicle.
Sometimes, though, the stress from playing can bring on hiccups in both puppies and adult dogs.
How to Determine When Your Dog is Feeling Anxious
Fear can seem a little silly at times, and yet, fear is something we all experience for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, these may seem reasonable, or they may seem a bit odd to some of us. Some people and animals are scared of spiders, and some may be scared of something as harmless as a butterfly.
Your pets communicate primarily by using body language. Certain obvious gestures such as bared teeth or a wagging tail are common body language signs for dogs that most of us tend to recognize.
Checking to see if your dog displays any of the following signs will help you to determine when your dog is afraid and hiccups may be the cause:
- Submissive urination
- Clinginess to owner
- Tail tucked between the hind legs
- Raised hair on the back of the neck
Sometimes, that fear may seem misplaced, abnormal, and even silly to you; but these signs are probably ones you don’t want to ignore.
How to Get Rid of Your Dog’s Hiccups
Here’s some good news for you: hiccups don’t hurt, and they usually go away on their own.
As pet owners, it is satisfying to do everything you can when your dog gets hiccups to help them calm down and feel better. However, since there isn’t actually a “cure” (even for humans with hiccups), it’s best to just help your dog stay comfortable and wait for these contractions to pass. Here are a few options you can try that may help speed up the process.
1. Encourage calm and regular breathing
If you notice a rapid change in your dog’s breathing pattern, you need to make his or her breathing more steady and rhythmic.
Try lying your dog on his back and stroking him gently. Be sure that you’re not panicking either since your dog can pick up on your fears and emotions too. Talk in a soft voice to reassure him that everything is okay, being sure to be soothing so his heart rate and breathing slow down to a more normal pace.
Even if your dog doesn’t fully calm down from having to deal with hiccups, every dog adores attention and this will at least help his or her mood a little bit, and they’ll love you for it even more later.
2. Drink water
Just like in humans, drinking water has proven to be effective in helping hiccups subside, even if it’s not a guaranteed cure.
A few sips of water may help with the hiccups, but if your dog is not in the mood for a drink, try an ice cube to helps stimulate the vagus nerve. Just make sure that your dog gulps it calmly and slowly.
The last thing you want for your dog to do while hiccupping is to start choking as well.
3. Give him a massage
Placing a gentle amount of pressure on your dog’s diaphragm may help with the contractions. And, as usual with most dogs, a belly rub or chest rub is always appreciated!
It’s also been proven that giving “doggy massages” helps a dog and owner bond and greatly reduces the animal’s stress levels.
4. Change your dog’s diet
Foods that contain lots of grain—like wheat, corn, or barley—tend to cause hiccups more often than low grain food. Consider changing your dog’s diet to one that is more natural or higher in protein and lower in grains.
How to Help Your Dog Overcome Hiccup Anxiety
Although you may have already helped resolve your dog’s hiccups, he may still be fretting and shaking long after the hiccups are gone.
How can you help your dog overcome this fear?
You first need to accept that some things are just terrifying to dogs and without much understandable “reason” behind them, so you don’t need to try to find a logical explanation for your dog’s new phobia. Also, just like humans, most dogs will reminisce on bad experiences at times that can leave them sad for the rest of the day.
Thankfully, there are a few recommendations for helping your dog get back to his or her usual happy mood and move past the potentially silly but upsetting experience of having hiccups.
Try soothing your dog
Soothe your dog when he or she is frightened. Pet him, cradle him, give him kisses, and say nice and comforting things about how much you love him. Your furry friend needs you the most at a time like this. Assure him that it’s going to be okay and give him all the love possible.
Don’t listen to the common misconception that you should not comfort your dog when they are scared “because it will encourage fearful behavior in them”—be sure to support your furry family member no matter what.
Help your dog through the rough patches
Trust that your dog is making great progress toward overcoming his fears as you help him along. Even when he has a setback, don’t be discouraged. Just stay consistent with what you’re doing, and you’ll see progress again even if it takes some time. Just keep right on loving him while he learns to overcome these fears.
Additionally, there are now also natural calming aids available for dogs to help reduce their anxiety, when needed.
What If My Dog’s Hiccups Don’t Go Away?
If your dog has hiccups for more than a few hours, or if your dog’s hiccups change to a wheezing sound or cause irregular or difficult breathing, you should take him or her to the vet to get checked out in case there is something more serious at play.
Are you sure hiccups aren’t dangerous?
Again, hiccups may be frustrating, inconvenient, or even a bit scary, but they are not something to be concerned about. However, as mentioned above, if they persist for far longer than normal or cause breathing concerns, be sure to speak with your local vet about what to do and if there may some underlying serious cause.
Are the natural calming aids safe for my dog?
These are new products on the market but are specifically formulated for dogs. They’re often used for dogs who have separation anxiety or have trouble with travelling, fireworks, or other potential stressors. They are safe for dogs, but if you have further concerns or your dog has a history of food or medicinal allergies, be sure to consult your vet first before use.
Family Dog Expert Author
Hi there! I’m Stuart, a devoted dog lover and family dog expert with over a decade of experience working with our furry companions. My passion for dogs drives me to share my knowledge and expertise, helping families build strong, loving bonds with their four-legged friends. When I’m not writing for SirDoggie, you’ll find me hiking, playing with my beautiful dog, or studying music.