When a dog makes hiccup noises while sleeping, it’s due to involuntary contractions of the diaphragm. Dogs are more likely to get hiccups during REM sleep because that’s when the body is most relaxed, but it could happen during any sleep phase.
It’s definitely no secret that our precious pup can become quite gassy (which is definitely a great understatement). Especially when they are sleeping. From running, soft barks, or even timid growls, dogs display lots of peculiar behavior while sleeping. You might even observe your pup catching a case of the hiccups when they’re passed out on the floor.
For some dog owners, this might seem a bit alarming. It may seem like they are struggling to breathe or even experiencing night tremors. But should you be worried? Or is this normal?
If you find that your dog is hiccuping while sleeping, there’s typically nothing to be concerned about. In this article, we will be going over why dogs hiccup in their sleep and whether or not you should see the vet.
What You'll Learn
What Causes Hiccups In the First Place?
It’s impossible to understand why dogs hiccup in their sleep if you don’t know why they hiccup in the first place.
The cause of hiccups in dogs is the same as in humans. Hiccups are caused by involuntary contractions of the diaphragm.
The diaphragm is a bowl-shaped muscle within the skeletal system. This muscle separates the chest cavity from the abdominals.
When a dog inhales, the diaphragm is shuffled down into the abdomen, making room for the lungs to inflate.
When a dog exhales, the diaphragm is moved back into the chest cavity. This process is usually seamless, but sometimes a random spasm in the muscle may occur, causing hiccups.
This is a universal condition that happens within your own body as well. So in most instances, a case of sleepy hiccups in your pup isn’t anything to raise suspicion.
Dogs Hiccup In Their Sleep For Relief
Now that you know hiccups are nothing more than a muscle spasm, let’s talk about what causes the spasm when they’re asleep.
Our furry friends love to ingest everything they can get their paws on. This also means eating items that don’t exactly agree with that sensitive tummy of theirs.
Sometimes, hiccups are just a means of the body expelling an abnormal build-up of gas retained in the stomach. This is especially true if a dog eats right before bed. But hey, I’m sure you’d rather their gas coming from hiccups, rather than the opposite end…
In some cases, it could mean your dog isn’t getting enough air while sleeping. This shouldn’t be an immediate cause for concern, but if it continues, be sure to consult with your vet.
“Sleeping Hiccups” Are More Common in Puppies
Puppies are known to be more prone to hiccups, awake and asleep.
Pups tend to have much higher energy levels, increasing the chances of a spasm in the diaphragm with rapid bursts of breaths, causing hiccups.
When your young pup is resting after a long day of play, their body may still be trying to catch up with itself, causing those adorable little hiccups in their sleep.
Puppies also eat much more ravenously than their adult counterparts. This can cause a build-up of gas, which we now know is a contributing factor.
It’s also been speculated that these hiccups are a residual instinct from the days in their mother’s womb. Although this hasn’t been proven, there’s some speculation that hiccups are used as a way to exercise their lungs while submerged in fluids from the womb.
Hiccups in young dogs can also be part of the developmental process. Puppies have organs that are inexperienced and underdeveloped, which may contribute to a slew of hiccups.
Just like teething, this process can be considered a growing pain as their bodies mature. This typically lasts about 8 months to a year.
Hiccups Are More Likely to Happen in REM
There is nothing like the feeling of your soft sheets and a heavy deep sleep at the end of a challenging day.
Even though your dog’s day might not be so challenging, they still appreciate some deep sleep.
REM sleep is the deepest stage in the sleep cycle. This is shared by dogs and humans alike. If a dog has achieved rem sleep, they are at their most relaxed and comfortable.
This relaxed state can cause your dog to inadvertently take deeper breaths, possibly causing the hiccups. (The brain tends to be just as active in the rem cycle as it is wide awake.)
Other signs that your dog is in the REM cycle include: twitching eyes, restless limbs, and rapid breathing. This usually happens about 90 minutes after falling asleep.
Possible Health Concerns When Hiccuping In Sleep
Typically, hiccups should provide no concern for harmful health complications. But if you notice this condition becomes chronic, you may want to explore the possibility of a health disorder.
Hiccups can be a sign of gastrointestinal issues. In other words, the build-up of gas inside their tummies.
If you notice these hiccups accompanied by shortness of breath or even a slight cough, this can be a sign of a wide range of respiratory issues, including asthma and kennel cough.
Kennel cough is a condition caused when certain bacteria get stuck in the respiratory tract. This is very contagious and is often the product of being in an overcrowded shelter with poor ventilation.
Other “worst-case scenario” health conditions include: heart disease, heartworms, and even hypothermia.
Keep in mind, it is unlikely that your dog’s hiccups have any correlation with these disorders. However, if suspected they might, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Reverse Sneezing Vs. Hiccups
What you are perceiving as a hiccup might not be a hiccup at all!
Reverse sneezing is common in dogs. It’s a rapid and forced inhalation through the nose, in an attempt to clear obstructions or alleviate allergies.
A lot of dog owners observe this as a cough, sneeze, or in this case, hiccups. Mostly common in Toy breeds, this respiratory event is usually completely harmless.
Are Sleep Hiccups Harmless?
In most cases, you don’t want to intervene with hiccups. If your dog has the hiccups in their sleep, just let them sleep. However, if you feel the need to help, try giving your dog some water.
Never give them treats or food, as the hiccups can cause them to choke. Distracting them with a comfort toy may distract them long enough for the hiccups to subside.
There are multiple reasons why your adorable pup is hiccupping in their sleep. Just remember, it’s typically nothing serious and shouldn’t cause worry. Keep a close eye on your dog, and be sure to contact a trained professional if you believe their condition is becoming more chronic.
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