It is common for dog hiccups to occur occasionally, however, when a dog hiccups and vomits, it is quite unusual and alarming.
So, what causes dog hiccups and vomiting? Should you be worried?
Let’s take a deep dive into dog hiccups and vomiting to understand why it happens, the possible complications, what to do and when to seek medical care.
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Here's why Dog hiccups and vomiting happen
Dog hiccups and vomiting are often a sign of an underlying gastrointestinal problem that causes vomiting which also triggers hiccups. This results in hiccups and vomiting occurring at the same time.
Do Dogs Throw Up When They Have Hiccups?
No, dogs do not throw up when they have hiccups, however, when throwing up with hiccups occurs, it is often an indication of a gastrointestinal problem that causes them to vomit and which also triggers hiccups.
Dog Hiccup Symptoms
Dog hiccups are common, occurring occasionally and for a few minutes. They are not harmful and are like human hiccups, although in dogs they appear to be more dramatic.
The hiccups are caused by the involuntary spasms of the diaphragm muscle when its nerves, referred to as the phrenic nerves are irritated.
The diaphragm muscle is located between the chest cavity and the stomach area in a mammal such as a dog. The muscle has an important function in the breathing process.
Irritation of the diaphragm’s nerves causes it to have irregular contractions and spasms. This action causes air to rush into the lungs of a dog during breathing causing the voice box and vocal cords to suddenly close. This produces a hiccup sound.
A dog with hiccups inhales then followed by sudden stops results in shaking of their belly or whole body. Sometimes an occasional burp may also come out.
Other symptoms that appear such as lethargy, coughing, licking, or vomiting indicate an underlying medical problem.
Related: Dog hiccups and licking (Explained)
Dog Hiccups And Vomiting: What Triggers This?
So, what causes dog hiccups and vomiting to occur at the same time? Let’s dive into what triggers these two responses.
The gastrointestinal system of dogs includes the mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, rectum, anus, and all the organs that produce enzymes to help in the digestion of food and liquids.
The system contains nerves that form the enteric nervous system (ENS), which is part of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which is responsible for regulating involuntary body functions such as digestion.
This is done through the passage of electrical signals from the brain to the system’s organs and muscles.
Underlying conditions that may irritate or damage parts of a dog’s nervous system, including the autonomic system and the phrenic nerves, can lead to hiccups.
Therefore when a dog is throwing up and hiccuping, it means that the gastrointestinal system’s nerves are irritated due to an underlying gastrointestinal condition which also creates a domino effect triggering irritation of the diaphragm’s phrenic nerves, which results in hiccups.
What Causes Vomiting In Dogs
Vomiting is the active removal of food from the stomach. It is not an illness in itself but a symptom of an underlying condition or illness.
Occasional vomiting in dogs is not unusual and it commonly occurs when a dog wants to get rid of something that they ate that does not sit well with them.
In some cases, it can be a sign of a more serious illness.
The causes of vomiting in dogs include:
- Gastrointestinal infection
- Intestinal parasites
- Sudden diet change
- Food intolerance
- Ingestion of toxins
- Ingestion of foreign objects
- Ingestion of garbage
- Diseases (pancreatitis, cancer, liver or kidney failure)
- Reaction to medication
- Motion sickness
Vomiting often starts with nausea, repeated swallowing, restlessness, salivating, and licking of lips which are followed by the forceful removal of food or liquid from the mouth.
What causes puppy hiccups and vomiting?
Puppy hiccups and vomiting are signs of an underlying gastrointestinal problem that causes vomiting and also triggers hiccups. The occurrence of the two symptoms is a cause for concern, similarly also when it occurs in adult dogs.
What do puppy hiccups and vomiting of bile mean?
Puppy hiccups and vomiting of bile occur when a puppy vomits on an empty stomach or when the upper small intestine is irritated causing vomiting of bile. The vomiting process also triggers hiccups. Prolonged puppy hiccups with vomiting of bile indicate a gastrointestinal problem.
Bile in vomit is a sign of an underlying health problem that requires medical treatment. Health conditions that result in a puppy vomiting bile include:
- Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)
- Obstruction of the small intestine
- Giardia infection (an intestinal parasitic infection)
- Gastric motility disorder (an abnormal movement of food in the stomach)
Why is my dog hiccuping and almost vomiting?
A dog hiccuping and almost vomiting may not be having hiccups but is retching. Retching and seizures are commonly confused for hiccups because they appear and sound like hiccups. A retching dog makes the motion of vomiting with nothing coming out, which is not a dog hiccup sign.
Dog hiccups do not usually occur with other symptoms other than the slight body spasms, the “hic” sound, sometimes silent hiccups, and an occasional burp.
Non-productive vomiting or retching occurs because of underlying health problems which include nausea, bloat, throat obstruction, collapsed trachea, respiratory disease, bilious vomiting syndrome, and gastrointestinal problems.
So, if a dog is seemingly hiccuping and almost vomiting, they are likely retching which is a sign of a serious underlying condition, which is a medical emergency.
Complications of dog hiccups and vomiting
The most important complication of chronic vomiting is loss of electrolytes and dehydration and if medical attention is not provided in time, this is life-threatening.
Dog hiccups and vomiting can also be a symptom of a serious life-threatening gastrointestinal illness which can result in fatal health outcomes for a dog if treatment is not provided.
How do I treat a dog with hiccups and vomiting?
If your dog has hiccups and is vomiting, you can initially treat them by first withdrawing their food for 6 hours but provide drinking water and observing them.
Observe your dog for continued vomiting, hiccups, and any other signs of illness.
If your dog vomits more than once and with hiccups, go to the veterinarian immediately. This is often a sign of a gastrointestinal problem or a more serious illness.
Treatment of a dog with prolonged hiccups and vomiting requires medical intervention to determine the underlying problem.
Therefore what you should do when your dog keeps vomiting and having hiccups is seek medical attention for the determination of the underlying cause.
When to seek help
Occasional hiccups or vomiting commonly occur and usually do not require medical attention.
However, there is vomiting that is concerning and requires medical attention.
The severity of vomiting can be determined by the frequency and intensity of vomiting and if other symptoms of illness are present as well.
Hiccups also usually last for a few minutes however when they are prolonged, this is the point to be concerned because it is often an indication of an underlying medical problem.
Dog hiccups and vomiting requires medical attention.
Symptoms to look out for to seek immediate medical attention include:
- Continuous vomiting for several hours a row
- Vomit that is bloody
- Presence of other symptoms such as fever, loss of appetite, and lethargy
- If your dog is currently on medication or has an existing health condition
- Abdominal pain
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Signs of dehydration are present (panting, dry nose, thick saliva, dry gums, and lethargy)
- Suspected ingestion of a foreign object
- Difficulty in breathing
- Prolonged hiccups (more than 1 hour)
Vomiting is life-threatening due to dehydration especially if it is chronic and if not treated early.
Always seek medical attention within 8 to 12 hours if your dog has vomiting coupled with diarrhea because the two can quickly lead to severe, life-threatening dehydration.
Also inform the veterinarian of the appearance of your dog’s vomit, which will also help in the overall diagnosis.
A dog with hiccups and vomiting will undergo a complete evaluation including tests to determine the underlying cause.
Treatment for dog hiccups and vomiting will depend on the underlying cause of vomiting. This includes:
- Treatment of underlying disease
- Anti-nausea medication
- Anti-inflammatory medication to calm the stomach and intestines
- Fluid therapy in severe cases of dehydration
- Withdrawal of food
- Dietary change
Withholding of food for 6 to 48 hours is advised to allow the digestive system to calm down and repair itself. During this time drinking water should still be provided.
After this period a dog will be put on a bland diet which consists of boiled rice and boiled chicken, before reintroduction to its regular diet.
Dietary changes are also recommended in cases where the underlying gastrointestinal problem is due to food intolerance.
Parasites such as hookworms and heartworms cause damage to a dog’s respiratory tract during their migration cycle in the body. This parasite migration causes inflammation in the tract which manifests as hiccups.
Therefore dewormers are prescribed if a dog has a parasitic infection, which treats vomiting and stops the hiccups.
In severe cases of vomiting that may lead to dehydration, hospitalization may be necessary for the administration of intravenous fluids.
Treatment of the underlying cause of vomiting which triggered hiccups also stops the hiccups.
Summary: Dog hiccups and vomiting
Prolonged dog hiccups and vomiting are a medical emergency because it is an indication of underlying gastrointestinal issues.
It is important to contact your veterinarian when these two signs appear alongside each other.
The veterinarian will be able to determine the underlying cause of the vomiting and provide the necessary treatment.