Puppy hiccups are usually a harmless, involuntary contraction of the diaphragm experienced by all breeds and sizes, with episodes lasting just a few minutes. Some unborn pups even hiccup inside their mother's womb!
"I've actually seen it when I do ultrasounds," says board certified veterinary internist Diane Levitan, founder of Mobile Veterinary Ultrasound and Endoscopy in Syosset, New York.
"It's very cute," she adds. (Check out this video of a hiccuping Rottweiler Puppy!)
By the time dogs reach their first birthday, they've usually outgrown these annoying yet adorable bouts.
Veterinarians aren't entirely sure why puppies go through this phase. But they do know it's perfectly normal for dogs less than 6 months of age to hiccup a handful of times throughout the day, with occurrences lasting two to three minutes.
A hiccup is a spasm of the diaphragm, explains Levitan, brought on by irritation of the phrenic and vegus nerves that run from the neck all the way through the chest and into the belly.
In puppies, gobbling a meal or gulping water often stretches those sensitive nerves, triggering the reflex. Other culprits include moments of emotional stress, excessive excitement and some medications.
The remedy? Patience. Normal hiccuping subsides without any help or concocted home remedies from the owner, says Susan Nelson, DVM, and assistant professor at Kansas State University's College of Veterinary Medicine in Manhattan.
If you feel the need to do something, however, keep your pup calm by gently stroking his coat or talking in a soft, reassuring tone. "Some people try rubbing the belly with claims of various success," says Nelson, adding "If excitement triggers hiccuping, you can try to avoid those activities."
Veterinarians say its important owners don't confuse hiccuping with other involuntary movements that indicate something more serious is going on such as coughing, choking, or muscle tremors.
A visit to your puppy's health practitioner is also in order if hiccuping is accompanied by vomiting, last longer than 30 minutes, happens more than a few times per day, or interferes with eating, sleeping or playing.
For more on puppy health and development, visit the PuppyLife Puppy Center.