A dog with hiccups and diarrhea can be quite concerning. Hiccups are fairly normal in a dog but it is quite unusual to see them occur with diarrhea.
So why do dog hiccups and diarrhea occur? Should you panic?
Let’s take a deep dive into dog hiccups and diarrhea, why they happen, the possible complications, and when to seek medical care.
Here's Why Dog Hiccups and Diarrhea Happen
Dog hiccups and diarrhea occurs when a dog has an underlying gastrointestinal problem that causes diarrhea and triggers the production of hiccups. The gastrointestinal system contains a large system of nerves and any condition that causes irritation of this system can also trigger the diaphragm’s phrenic nerves causing hiccups.
Normal Hiccup Symptoms
Hiccups in a dog sound exactly like hiccups in humans. They are a distinctive “hic” sound that escapes through the mouth and lasts a few minutes.
Dog hiccups also can be silent and also produce an occasional burp.
The hiccups come from the irritation of the phrenic nerves of the diaphragm muscle, which is an important muscle used in breathing that is located between the chest and the stomach area.
The irritation causes the muscle to have irregular contractions which makes air rush into the lungs during breathing which suddenly closes the voice box and vocal cords, resulting in the production of the hiccup sound.
Hiccups are not harmful to a dog in any way and are common as well as normal. They are involuntary spasms of the diaphragm which can occur suddenly and also end abruptly.
Generally, hiccups do not appear with any other symptoms of illness such as diarrhea and in case it does happen, it means that something is wrong.
Causes of Dog Diarrhea
Diarrhea is the production of loose, watery stool frequently and in large amounts. It is usually a sign of many different diseases which affect the gastrointestinal tract.
Gastrointestinal problems that cause diarrhea are common in dogs and are usually caused by infections by bacteria, viruses, or parasites and non-infectious disorders. This includes:
- Food intolerance
- Dietary indiscretion
- Accidental ingestion chemicals
- Kidney and liver disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Bowel obstruction
- Acid reflux and esophageal irritation that trigger hiccups
- A parasitic infection (roundworms, hookworms, or heartworms)
Diarrhea in dogs can be mild or severe and appear with other signs of illness including abdominal pain, loss of appetite, vomiting, and fever.
Do Dogs Hiccup if They Have Worms?
Dogs may hiccup if they have worms that attack the respiratory tract, these include roundworms and heartworms, which cause irritation and damage to the tract. The worms’ migration through the respiratory tract causes inflammation which manifests as hiccups.
The worms’ growth cycles in their host, that is within a dog, have a phase where at one point they are in the respiratory tract.
When dog hiccups are frequent, prolonged, and accompanied by symptoms such as a decreased desire or inability to exercise, they get tired easily even with light exercise, overall weakness, and loss of appetite, this can be an indication of a parasitic infection.
It is always best to collect a sample of their stool and see the veterinarian immediately for testing and diagnosis.
Read more: When to worry about puppy hiccups
Diarrhea leads to dehydration and loss of electrolytes from a dog’s body. If treatment is not provided in time, this can be life-threatening.
Diarrhea can also be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition such as cancer and if not treated early can result in bad outcomes for a dog.
Recommended reading: Dog hiccups and sneezing
When to Seek Help for Dog Hiccups and Diarrhea
The severity of diarrhea can be determined by how long it has lasted and whether there are other symptoms of illness that are present.
In both cases, a dog with hiccups and diarrhea should be treated as an emergency. Diarrhea itself can be life-threatening if not treated early.
Seek medical help when:
- There are other symptoms present such as fever, weakness, vomiting, pale gums
- Bloody diarrhea
- Continuous diarrhea that won’t stop
- If your dog is on medication
- If your dog has an existing health condition
- Prolonged hiccups ( more than 1 hour)
Always contact the veterinarian immediately if your dog has diarrhea and/or vomiting within 8 to 12 hours when it occurs.
Take a stool sample to your veterinarian, which will be tested. The veterinarian will also ask you questions on your dog’s behavior and history to understand what could have led to diarrhea.
In addition to this, different tests will be conducted to reach a diagnosis.
Treatment will depend on the underlying cause of diarrhea. Initial treatment will consist of administration of anti-diarrhea medication and probiotics.
Dietary changes will also be recommended. This includes the withdrawal of your dog’s regular diet for 12 – 24 hours to allow the gut to heal itself, with the provision of water.
After this time, a dog will be on a diet prescribed by your veterinarian or on a diet consisting of boiled rice or pasta and boiled chicken. This diet also allows healing of the gut before reintroduction of their regular diet.
Dewormers may be prescribed if a dog has a parasitic infection or antibiotics for bacterial infection.
In severe diarrhea that may have led to dehydration, hospitalization may be necessary where a dog is administered with intravenous fluids to correct the dehydration and loss of electrolytes.
Treatment of the underlying cause of diarrhea also stops dog hiccups.
Dog hiccups and diarrhea are not good signs and show that your dog has gastrointestinal issues that need to be checked.
Reach out to your veterinarian to determine the underlying cause of diarrhea which also triggered the hiccups so that they can be treated and also to relieve them of the hiccups.
A case report of Vagus nerve stimulation for intractable hiccups