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Is it Normal for my Puppy or Kitten to Have Hiccups?

                                                       Is it Normal for my Puppy or Kitten to Have Hiccups?

     What is a hiccup? Hiccups are an involuntary reflex involving the diaphragm. When we hiccup, our diaphragm contracts causing us to quickly inhale as the back of the throat called the glottis closes. Air forced over the vocal cords causes the characteristic sound. Hiccups are common in young mammals of all species but do not appear to occur in birds, reptiles, or most amphibians.

     Do hiccups serve a purpose?  The true purpose of hiccups is unknown; however, there are some theories that hiccups may be an evolutionary holdover to when water-dwelling creatures transitioned to land—it was potentially a way to force water over gills instead of having it enter the lungs. Tadpoles still exhibit a similar hiccupping reaction. It has also been proposed that hiccups may be a way for young animals to expel excess gas from their stomachs or that it may train muscles while still in the womb for breathing after birth.

     You might notice your puppy or kitten hiccupping and wonder if this is normal.  Hiccups in puppies and kittens are completely normal. The nerve that controls the diaphragm known as the phrenic nerve is less mature and more easily stimulated in puppies and kittens.  This is why hiccups are more common in young pets than in adults though adult pets can experience hiccups on occasion.

     Things like eating or drinking too quickly, excitement or being cold can all trigger hiccups.  Most puppies or kittens will only have hiccups for a few minutes and they should pass without any intervention.  No treatment is generally necessary. If hiccups seem to be frequent or are lasting for a long time, distracting the puppy or kitten, rubbing or massaging her chest or belly, and limiting food or using a slow feeder bowl may help to stop them from hiccupping. 

     If a bout of hiccups seems extremely prolonged, if your pup or kitten seems to be panting or wheezing during an episode, or if he seems to have difficulty breathing or irregular breathing, see your vet.

     While the true purpose of hiccups remains a bit of a mystery, rest assured that it is perfectly normal for our puppies and kittens to have them occasionally, so there’s no need to worry if your pet experiences hiccups.

      This blog brought to you by the Patton Veterinary Hospital serving Red Lion, York and the surrounding communities.