Hiccups in humans are a common thing we experience from time to time. Hearing them from our canine companion is a different scenario and one would be concerned about it and wonder if it is also normal for them and the reasons why they also get hiccups.
We outline the causes of hiccups in a Saint Bernard, how to help and when to seek help.
Why does my Saint Bernard get hiccups?
A Saint Bernard gets hiccups as a result of eating or drinking quickly, excitement, stress, inhalation of an irritant, or from heavy breathing during active play. Hiccups are more common in puppy Saint Bernards compared to adult dogs and are normal in Saint Bernards.
Is it bad for your dog to get hiccups a lot?
It is not bad for your dog to get hiccups a lot because it is common and normal for them to experience them and should last for a short time. However in some cases if the hiccups are prolonged for a few hours or the frequency of occurrence is high, it is advisable to seek medical attention.
Although hiccups are common and not harmful to a dog, they can also be a sign of an underlying respiratory health problem especially if accompanied by other symptoms.
What causes hiccups in a Saint Bernard?
The irregular movement of the diaphragm muscle leads to hiccups. The diaphragm is a muscle within a Saint Bernard’s body that separates the chest cavity from the stomach. The muscle contracts and relaxes during breathing with regular movements and hiccups are produced when the muscle suddenly spasms.
The sudden involuntary spasm of the diaphragm causes the glottis in the vocal cords to also suddenly close periodically producing the hiccup sounds.
The hiccups last for a short time and stop when the diaphragm spasm stops and the muscle returns to its normal movement.
Hiccups occur in both Saint Bernard puppies as well as adults.
The below are triggers that can affect the regular movement of the diaphragm muscle and lead to the development of hiccups in a Saint Bernard:
Drinking or eating fast
When a Saint Bernard eats or drinks too fast, they tend to swallow a lot of air which can disrupt the regular movement of the diaphragm. This leads to the occurrence of hiccups. This is common for both puppies and adult dogs that are fast eaters and drinkers.
Stress causes a Saint Bernard to be very anxious, making them pant rapidly which also triggers spasms of the diaphragm. Hiccups occur as a result of this.
Over-excitement of your dog can also make them breathe rapidly which might also affect the normal diaphragm movement, leading to hiccups. Saint Bernard puppies are more likely to experience hiccups due to excitement because they are usually more hyperactive than older dogs.
Your dog can also inhale an irritant from the air which may irritate the airways in their lungs which will also result in irregular breathing patterns. This will trigger hiccups to occur.
Heavy breathing during active play
Active play or exercise can result in a Saint Bernard having increased breathing patterns through panting which may disrupt the diaphragm’s movements. Hiccup development can occur because of this.
Saint Bernard puppies are also more likely to experience hiccups as a result of being active because they are more energetic and playful compared to adult dogs.
Saint Bernard puppies also experience hiccups more frequently than adult dogs because their organs are still developing. Biologically because they’re still maturing makes them more likely to have hiccups.
Saint Bernard Hiccups: When to Worry
Consult your vet immediately when your Saint Bernard’s hiccups are accompanied by the following symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
These signs should not be ignored as well as if the hiccups prolong and when the frequency of occurrence increases.
The symptoms can be signs of underlying respiratory conditions such as asthma, pneumonia, respiratory defects, or pericarditis. Contact your vet immediately. They will determine the underlying health problem and advise accordingly on measures to take.
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How to help your Saint Bernard get rid of hiccups
Hiccups come and go away as quickly as they started when the diaphragm muscle resumes its regular contraction and relaxation movement. Normally it’s a process that has to be waited out to stop, however, as a Saint Bernard owner you may still want to help your dog during this time.
There are methods you can implement to help your dog during a hiccup episode and also minimize the occurrence of hiccups. These methods include:
Slowed eating and drinking
A fast-eating puppy or adult dog increases the chances of hiccups occurrence. To be able to minimize this from happening, change the feeding method to discourage fast eating or drinking of water. This can be done by using a slow feeding bowl.
A great recommendation for medium-large breed dogs is the JASGOOD slow feeding bowl which is effective in limiting your dog from eating too much at a time and it is also easy to clean.
One thing you can do to help your Saint Bernard during an episode of hiccups is to gently massage their chest.
This helps to calm them down and return their breathing to a regular pattern which also encourages the diaphragm to resume its regular movement in turn stopping the hiccups.
Take a break from play
When you play with your dog or when they have a play session, take short breaks in between the sessions so that they can rest.
This will help to prevent hiccups from occurring due to rapid breathing.
If they develop hiccups during play, also take a break from playing and try to calm them down to slow down the rapid breathing, which will also stop the hiccups.
Take a walk
A short brisk walk with your dog can help ease the hiccups and stop them. The goal here is to return the diaphragm to its regular movement which stops the hiccups. However, do not over-exercise your dog.
Remember Saint Bernards should not be over-exercised before they are two years of age because this will affect the bones and joints which results in the development of skeletal disorders. Light exercise such as taking a walk is best.
Provide a sweetener
Providing a small amount of sweetener in your Saint Bernard’s drinking water can also help stop the hiccups.
Drinking the sweetened water helps to distract them and helps to calm them down which helps in stopping the hiccups.
A sweetener such as Stevia is safe for dogs. Do not use sugar because sugar is harmful to them.
When the hiccups persist for a long time over a couple of hours, talk to your vet and have a checkup for your dog.
The vet will examine your Saint Bernard and provide further advice on what would be the health problem if present.
Hiccups come and go in a Saint Bernard which is normal and like us, humans, they experience them and do not harm your dog. They do not have your dog and resolve in a matter of a few minutes.
However, as a Saint Bernard owner, monitor your dog’s behavior during this time to observe any other symptoms that may accompany the hiccups. Other symptoms indicate the presence of underlying respiratory problems. Seek medical advice from your vet if you notice any other signs as shown in the article as well as if the hiccups last for a few hours.