Animal Hiccups – What They Are and What to Do
You’ve had the hiccups before. Your neighbors have had them; so have your kids and your friends. In fact, probably everybody you know has had the hiccups at one point of time, but did you know that animals can get them too?
What are Hiccups?
Hiccups are an involuntary contraction of the diaphragm (a thin sheet of muscle under the lungs). When the diaphragm contracts, air rushes into the lungs. This same contraction causes the glottis (vocal chords) to clamp shut. The air rushing in is promptly blocked. This rushing in air which is then blocked causes the lump you feel in your throat and the ‘hic!’ sound.
What Causes Hiccups?
There are hundreds of reported causes of hiccups. Everything from eating or drinking too quickly, emotional tension, or laughing too hard to many serious underlying conditions have been reported as causes. Generally, however, regardless of the external cause, hiccups are caused by trapped air in the stomach, irritation to the throat, or irritation to the phrenic or vagus nerves (nerves that run from the throat, through the chest, and to the diaphragm.
As hiccups are caused by a contraction of the diaphragm, any animal with a diaphragm can get them! This group includes all mammals. There are some amphibians which exhibit hiccup-like behavior, but are actually doing something which is closer to gulping. If your pet has the hiccups, the most important thing to know is that they are normal and will generally pass on their own. Animal hiccups usually bother owners more than the pets themselves! Though many animals can experience hiccups, they do not necessarily always look the same. When horses hiccup, their stomachs are seen to shake and loud thuds are heard. Horse hiccups are known as ‘thumps.’ When cats hiccup, they are generally silent.
If your pet seems to be coughing or gagging while hiccuping or if they hiccup a very frequent amount, it may be a good idea to take them to a vet. Some people suggests giving pets medication like gas-x or even Tums to help with the hiccups. It is strongly recommended that you do not give your pets any medications without first consulting a veterinarian. If your pet gets the hiccups a lot, there are a few things you can try to do to help them.
Make sure you are feeding your pet a high quality, low grain food. Lower quality foods can cause the hiccups (especially in dogs).
Give your pet a drink or a treat. This may alter their breathing pattern and stop the hiccups
Hold your pet and calm them down
Exercise with your pet. The increase in heart rate and breathing may help