If your dog is having hiccups and licking the floor, you may be concerned that something is wrong.
So, what causes dog hiccups and licking of the floor? Should you be worried?
Learn why dog hiccups and licking floors occurs, what to do about it and when to seek help.
Dog hiccups and floor licking commonly occur due to gastrointestinal disorders, stress, and anxiety. Floor licking is a fairly normal dog behavior that occurs for a variety of reasons, however, habitual licking and the appearance of other symptoms are often a sign of an issue, which also triggers hiccups.
Understanding Dog Hiccups
Dog hiccups are like human hiccups in humans. They may seem more dramatic in dogs however, it is the same reflex that causes them in mammals.
Hiccups are a reflex action that is triggered by the irritation of the diaphragm muscle’s phrenic nerves.
The reflex action is triggered by stress, fast eating or drinking, excessive barking, excitement, medication, and underlying health conditions.
The diaphragm is a muscle located in the chest of a dog whose function is to aid in breathing by its contraction and expansion.
When the phrenic nerves of the diaphragm are irritated, the smooth movement of the muscle is interrupted, causing it to spasm and have irregular movements, which results in hiccups.
A dog with hiccups will produce a “hic” sound, or sometimes be silent, with their body having slight movement as they breathe. Burps may also sometimes be heard.
Dog hiccups usually last for about 10 -15 minutes and stop on their own.
Hiccups are normal in dogs and may even occur every day but for a short period.
Do dogs lick the floor when sick?
Yes, dogs lick the floor when sick when they have certain underlying illnesses and behavioral issues, however, licking the floors is not always an indication of illness because it is a normal dog behavior.
Dog Licking Floor: Why it occurs
Dogs have many peculiar behaviors and licking the floor is one of these behaviors. As strange as it is, licking the floor is a normal behavior in dogs.
Dogs use their tongue to explore their environment by licking things that seem interesting or have an inviting smell.
Licking can also extend to other surfaces other than the floor including carpets, furniture, and walls.
Licking of floors is due to a variety of reasons which include:
Licking of spilled food or liquid
It is quite normal and not out of the ordinary when a dog licks food or liquid that is spilled on the floor.
Dogs explore their environment with their nose and tongue therefore if they smell something nice on the floor, they will gladly lick it.
Excessive licking of the floor has been linked to the presence of gastrointestinal disorders in dogs.
In addition to other symptoms, licking floors and other surfaces is a sign of a gastrointestinal disorder.
A stressed dog displays behavioral changes including whining, pacing, excessive shedding, excessive licking, and accidents in the house.
Stress can stem from various triggers including change in their environment, change of routine, new pets in the home, fear of loud noises, separation from their owners, and confusion or memory loss in older dogs.
Anxiety in dogs also causes behavioral changes which include drooling, restlessness, depression, aggression, defecating or urinating in the house, and compulsive repetitive behaviors.
Compulsive repetitive behaviors include excessive licking including licking surfaces.
Anxiety in dogs is mainly caused by fear, separation, and age. Fear-induced anxiety is related to people, animals, or noise that cause fear in a dog.
Separation anxiety is the uneasiness a dog feels when separated from its family while age-related anxiety is anxiousness in older dogs due to memory loss, and confusion.
Dental problems can lead to abnormal licking of the floor and other surfaces in an attempt to ease their discomfort.
Dental problems include mouth injury, dental disease, foreign objects stuck in the mouth, and oral tumors.
Senior dogs experience cognitive deterioration as they age, a condition also referred to as canine cognitive dysfunction which causes behavioral changes, including licking floors.
Compulsive repetitive behavior is a behavior that a dog uses to relieve stress and anxiety. A dog with this behavior will keep spinning, overgrooming, tail chasing, pacing, freezing, licking, and self-mutilation.
Some dog breeds are also genetically prone to compulsive behavior, this includes Dobermans, German Shepherds, Bull terriers, and the Great Dane, among other breeds.
When a dog is not mentally stimulated, they get bored and turn to activities that entertain them, which can also be destructive activities.
Licking on the floor is also an interesting activity for a bored dog.
Dog licking floor: When it's not normal
Although licking the floor is normal in dogs and of no cause for concern, however, sudden and increased frequency or excessive licking is not.
Excessive licking of the floor and other surfaces is a sign that something is wrong. This behavior is referred to as excessive licking of surfaces (ELS).
Research has shown that excessive licking of surfaces by dogs is commonly caused by gastrointestinal disorders, which include:
- Chronic pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Giardiasis (Intestinal parasitic infection)
- Delayed gastric emptying
Dog hiccups and licking floor: What causes this?
Dog hiccups and floor licking are not usual. When these two signs occur alongside each other, it is an indication of underlying gastrointestinal disorders, stress, and anxiety.
Gastrointestinal disorders, stress, and anxiety are common causes of dog hiccups and also cause behavioral changes in a dog which include licking floors or surfaces.
Serious complications of dog hiccups and licking of the floor include health deterioration due to underlying illnesses and destructive behavior due to compulsive behavior caused by stress and anxiety.
Dog hiccups and licking of the floor may be due to a serious underlying health problem that may be life-threatening if not treated early.
Compulsive behavior can be destructive in a home and harmful to a dog. The behavior is also difficult to live with and without treatment, it can only get worse.
The compulsive behavior may also be caused by an underlying medical condition, which when left untreated can lead to bad health outcomes for a dog.
When to seek help
Dog hiccups are usually not a medical emergency because they occasionally occur in dogs. They also last for a few minutes.
But if they are prolonged, occur frequently, and also alongside other symptoms, this is the point to be concerned.
Dog hiccups do not typically occur with the licking of the floor therefore when this happens, seek medical attention for your dog.
Therefore, seek medical care when the dog hiccups:
- Last more than 60 minutes (1 hour)
- Prolonged hiccups alongside gastrointestinal symptoms (such as diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, and/or loss of appetite)
- Appear with other symptoms of illness (such as coughing, difficulty in breathing, lethargy, or sneezing)
A dog licking the floor is also a normal behavior however if it is sudden, the intensity or frequency increases or if there is no food they are licking from the floor, these are signs to be concerned about.
A dog licking the floor for 20 minutes to an hour, not being able to be distracted from the activity, and resuming the habit after walking away to a new floor spot is excessive.
The behavior can also extend from floor licking to licking everything or different surfaces such as chairs, and carpets among other surfaces.
Therefore also talk to your veterinarian when your dog’s licking of floor and/or surfaces intensifies.
A complete evaluation of your dog will be conducted by the veterinarian including a physical examination and diagnostic tests including blood tests, ultrasound, x-rays, and fecal sample testing.
Treatment is based on the diagnosis. Treatment of the underlying cause of licking and/or prolonged hiccups stops hiccups and the licking.
If the underlying illness is identified, medication is prescribed to treat the condition which also stops the hiccups.
If no signs of physical illness are present, behavioral triggers that could cause dog hiccups and floor licking are addressed.
These include stress, anxiety, and compulsive repetitive behaviors.
Treatment of stress and anxiety involves lifestyle and environmental changes by removal of the triggers which cause stress and development of hiccups and licking of floors for comfort.
Medication may also be prescribed for the treatment of stress and anxiety
The veterinarian might also advise a consultation with an animal behaviorist who will assist in behavior modification training for your dog.
Behavior modification training helps to interrupt the current compulsive behaviors of your dog and teach them new behaviors.
Takeaway: Dog hiccups and licking floor
Dog hiccups and licking of the floor are very odd sight. In most cases, a dog may do it for a short time and their hiccups also ease off, but sometimes it may be due to a serious underlying health problem.
It is important to closely observe your dog and note the frequency and duration of the hiccups and licking of floors to determine if it is a sign that something is wrong.
If both dog hiccups and licking floors prolong and are frequent reach out to your veterinarian for an evaluation of your dog to find out the underlying cause.