Every sound your dog makes is well-known to you as a dog parent. It is normal to be confused when your dog is having something that looks like hiccups, but it is not.
I have a dog that looks like he has hiccups, but he doesn’t – chances are you have seen this. How does it happen? Dogs who seem to have something similar to hiccups actually have throat spasms.
Honking is also known as reverse sneezing, paroxysmal inspiratory respiration, or simply reverse sneezing. A tracheal spasm causes this symptom, during which the dog gasps for air as the narrowed trachea squeezes.
It can be very revealing for a first-time dog parent to see a dog go through a reverse sneezing bout when they do not know what is going on.
We will explain everything you need to know about this strange but normal phenomenon in this article. Additionally, we will give you some tips for handling reverse sneezing in dogs.
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What causes dog hiccups?
Reverse sneezing occurs because of an obstruction in the windpipe, usually due to a foreign body in the throat. The most common cause of this problem is food getting stuck in the throat. You may notice that your dog seems to choke and gasp for breath after eating.
This is because the food gets stuck at the back of the throat where it blocks the airway. If your dog’s gagging is accompanied by a honk, then there is no doubt that it is caused by a blockage.
Other reasons why your dog might experience reverse sneezing include:
- Foreign bodies in the mouth (such as pieces of grass)
- Throat infections
- Throats inflamed from allergies
- A blocked nose
- An object lodged in the esophagus
How to recognize dog hiccups
The easiest way to tell if your dog is experiencing reverse sneezing is to look at their face. If they are panting heavily, grunting, or making other noises while breathing, it could be hiccups.
However, if your dog is just lying around with their head down, looking sad, or even sleeping, it could be another issue.
If you suspect that your dog has reversed sneezing, you should take them to the vet immediately. They will want to examine your dog thoroughly to find out what is causing the problem. (1)
How to prevent dog hiccups
You can try to prevent reverse sneezing in your dog by keeping them away from foods that could get stuck in their throats. Most importantly, make sure that any toys or treats you feed your dog are safe for them to eat.
There are many choking hazards that are small enough to fit inside a dog’s mouth and throat. Some examples of these include plastic bags, balloons, buttons, coins, cotton balls, marbles, paper clips, pens, pencils, string, sticks, toothpicks, etc.
You should also keep your dog away from anything that could potentially become lodged in their throat, such as ropes, wires, fishing lines, garden tools, etc.
If you notice that your dog is swallowing things whole, you should remove them before they reach their stomach. It may be difficult to remove objects from your dog’s mouth, so you may want to enlist the help of someone else.
When to call the vet
If you think that your dog is having problems breathing, you should contact your veterinarian right away. Your vet can perform tests to determine whether or not your dog has reverse sneezing.
If your dog was found to have a foreign body in their throat, they can remove it. In addition, they can prescribe medication to help your dog breathe more easily.
If your dog had symptoms of reverse sneezing, then your vet may recommend surgery to open up the throat and relieve the pressure on the lungs.
They may also suggest using a device called a “vacuum aspirator” to clear the blockage. These devices work by sucking up the debris and removing it through a tube.
In some cases, your veterinarian may need to perform emergency surgery to remove a foreign body that has gotten stuck in your dog’s throat.
During this procedure, your vet may use a tool called an endoscope to see inside your dog’s mouth. Once the object is removed, your vet can close the wound.
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What is causing my dog’s throat spasms?
The cause of reverse sneezing or throat spasms is a bit of a mystery – nobody knows why they occur. There is evidence that irritants located in the back of the throat can lead to frequent reverse sneezing in dogs.
Among the most common irritants in the airways are allergens (pollen, smoke, dust, perfumes), nasal mites, tumors, masses, and foreign bodies (foxtail).
All dogs can experience throat spasms. Small dogs and dogs with long but narrow nasal passages are more susceptible to them.
In dogs with flat faces or brachycephalic heads, frequent spasms of the throat are more likely due to anatomical abnormalities. In dogs with flat faces, like Bulldogs, Boxers, and Pugs, simply becoming excited causes them to sneeze backwards.
Dog hiccups or choking
In order to determine whether your pet is suffering from benign hiccups or choking, observe their behavior, their body language, and interpret the signs they are showing.
Hiccups are caused when the diaphragm contracts, forcing air into the esophagus. This creates a vacuum-like effect which makes the muscles contract again and force out air. Hiccups usually last for about 10 seconds at a time and stop when the animal swallows.
Choking occurs when food gets trapped in the trachea, making it impossible to swallow. The first sign of choking is rapid panting. The second sign is gagging, followed by coughing as the dog tries to get rid of the obstruction.
Choking can be fatal if the obstruction isn’t removed quickly. To prevent this, make sure that all of your pets’ toys are safe. Keep any loose bones, plastic bags, or other objects out of reach. Be careful around sharp objects, such as scissors, knives, and toothbrushes. Never give your pet anything that could become lodged in his or her windpipe.
If your dog is experiencing reverse sneezing, try to avoid giving him or her things to eat or drink that might trigger hiccups. Try offering small amounts of food, rather than large meals. Also keep your dog hydrated. Drinking water will help flush any obstructions from the airway.
If your dog shows signs of choking, immediately call your vet. Do not attempt to dislodge the object yourself. Your vet will be able to remove the object safely.
What to do when a dog is reverse sneezing?
Reverse sneezing happens when something goes wrong in the respiratory system. If you notice your dog repeatedly snorting or spitting up after eating, he may have swallowed something too big to pass through his digestive tract.
He may also have inhaled something while sleeping or even been exposed to an irritating substance.
Try these suggestions to see if one of them helps:
Give your dog a thorough bath before bedtime. Scrubbing his face and paws will help loosen any debris stuck between his teeth and gums.
Keep your dog away from strong smells, such as those found in cleaning products and garbage bins. Some scents, such as ammonia, can actually cause your dog’s nose to run.
Avoid putting your pet near carpets or furniture that has recently been cleaned. These surfaces may contain chemicals or fragrances that can irritate your dog’s nostrils.
Use a humidifier at night to increase the moisture level in the air in your home. Dogs naturally prefer dry air, so adding extra humidity can relieve some symptoms.
Your dog should not be left alone for a long period of time. Make sure there are plenty of chew toys available for your dog to play with.
Throat massage can help clear blockages in your dog’s throat. You can perform this procedure yourself or ask a veterinarian to show you how to do it. Massaging your dog’s throat gently can relax tense muscles and help remove any foreign objects or mucus that may be causing problems.
Keep your dog’s nose shut. By pinching your dog’s nose for a couple of seconds, you can involuntarily make him swallow. In addition to soothing throat irritation, swallowing will likely stop reverse sneezing episodes.
When pinching your dog’s nose, make a quick and gentle squeeze with your thumb and forefinger. Don’t squeeze too hard or keep your nose closed for too long.
How do I know if my dog needs medical care?
Dogs often show symptoms of illness without realizing it. Signs include lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive salivation, increased urination, fever, lack of energy, listlessness, weakness, depression, and difficulty breathing.
Dogs who have an acute illness may also exhibit unusual behaviors, including aggression towards people, strange noises, excessive barking, and hiding under furniture or beds. Get your dog to a veterinarian immediately if you notice these symptoms.
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A dog looks like hiccups but not what does it mean?
Hiccups in dogs are just as common and normal as they are in people. Compared to adult dogs, puppies are more likely to experience hiccups. The reason for this may be that puppies tend to eat with their mouths open and run around with them open.
Dogs who get hiccups experience diaphragmatic spasms accompanied by a hic-like sound.
There are dogs whose spasms and sounds are accompanied by burping and others whose audible parts are absent. There is no sound associated with hiccups in dogs (the spasms part).
It is also important to note that some dogs might sound like they are retching or sneezing backwards when doing these things.
Treatment for reverse sneezing
Unless an underlying condition makes the dog more likely to have frequent episodes, reverse sneezing does not require treatment.
An underlying problem should be managed at all times when it exists. An allergy, for instance, can be treated with antihistamines, corticosteroids, and desensitization. Veterinarians prescribe antibiotics for cases of rhinitis or sinusitis. Last but not least, eliminate nasal mites if they are the trigger.
The expense of treating nasal mites varies from $300 to $1500; complicated rhinitis can cost a couple of thousands, and desensitization shots can cost hundreds.
Can reverse sneezing be prevented?
Sneezing in reverse cannot be prevented. It is possible to avoid some of the underlying problems that cause throat spasms, but there is no way to control the actual sneezing.
Fresh air and exercise are beneficial to all dogs. When overexcited during a walk or when excessively pulling on the leash, a dog prone to throat spasms may start reverse sneezing.
Reverse sneezing can kill a dog?
If the dog does not understand what is going on, reverse sneezing can be uncomfortable or stressful. As a standalone phenomenon, reverse sneezing is common and harmless.
Why Jolting Occurs in Dogs?
Injury to the brain Tremors may result from abnormal brain activity. The activity of the brain can be disrupted by trauma, stroke, or tumors.
Disorders of the nervous system Shaker’s syndrome, tremor syndromes, and cerebellar disorders are some of the conditions that create involuntary twitches due to disruption of the nervous system. Epilepsy and Lafora’s disease are two such conditions that can produce seizures, which include muscle spasms and jerks.
The condition of the muscles Tremors and ticks under the skin can be caused by muscle strains, injuries, and malfunctions. Muscle function can be affected by thiamine deficiencies. Sudden jerks and seizures are symptoms of muscle contraction disease or Myoclonus.
Tetanus Clostridium tetani bacteria release the toxin that causes tetanus. Spasms or jolts are caused by the toxin, which affects the nervous system.
Disorders are caused by genetics Hereditary disorders can cause involuntary tremors in many different ways. Generalized Tremor Syndrome and Orthostatic Tremor affect the nervous system, while Myotonia Congenita affects muscle function. Breed differences are common with these conditions.
Distemper in dogs Seizures and tremors are caused by this contagious viral disease. Infected animals contract distemper, which is usually fatal. This disease can be prevented by vaccines.
Dehydration In order to restore water balance, the body draws water out of individual cells when it loses too much water. As a result, electrolytes are lost, affecting muscle and nerve function.
Ingestion of toxic substances The toxic reaction caused by many prescription and recreational drugs can lead to involuntary jolts. A stimulant, such as caffeine, cocaine, or amphetamine, can trigger tremors.
In addition to toxic plants, molds and mycotoxins, insecticides, pesticides, and other chemicals, the ingestion of many other chemicals can disrupt brain and nerve function.
How to deal with a jolting dog
You should seek medical attention if your dog has been experiencing involuntary jerks and jolts. Various tests, as well as a complete medical and symptomatic history, can assist your veterinarian in determining the cause of your dog’s jolts.
If your pet has been injured, exposed to new or sick animals, traveled, or exhibited a change in behavior, notify your veterinarian immediately.
A physical exam will be performed, as well as blood and urine tests. The length, frequency, and severity of the jolts may be assessed by your veterinarian over time.
Imaging tests, such as CT scans and MRIs, can reveal an injury or tumor. In order to test their functionality, an electromyographic (EMG) test or muscle and nerve biopsies can be performed.
A variety of treatments are available depending on the cause of the jolts. Some less severe conditions may not require treatment, while others with more severe problems may require antiepileptics, immunosuppressives, muscle relaxants, or pain relievers.
Debridement of wounds and antiviral medications are often required for tetanus infections. Treatments such as fluid therapy, electrolyte therapy, or even surgery can be needed. Genetic conditions are sometimes difficult to treat and may progress over time.
How to prevent jolting
There are certain precautions you can take to keep your dog safe when a neurological disorder or virus strikes.
You can protect your dog from infectious and toxic agents by keeping him away from sick animals and hazardous environments.
It is possible to prevent muscle spasms by staying hydrated. Make sure your dog does not overexert himself and remains well-hydrated if he has a condition that can result in these spasms.
By performing routine veterinary exams, you may be able to catch many conditions before they progress too far, and you may be able to treat them successfully before they become debilitating. Vaccinate your dog against a distemper to prevent it from spreading.
There can be a wide range of treatment costs, and they are dependent on the condition that is causing your dog to jerk.
The cost of electrolytes, water, and vitamins can range from $10 to $30, but serious conditions that need prescription treatment can cost anywhere from $200 to $6,500. Involuntary muscle tremor therapy can cost $2500, while treatment for myoclonus can reach $3000.
Even though it may seem scary, reverse sneezing is a normal and harmless occurrence that all dogs encounter – some more, some less.
It is most likely not the first time your dog has reverse sneezed. You were probably not present when your dog reverse sneezed before.
It is best to have your dog examined by a veterinarian if reverse sneezing occurs frequently or for a long period of time. It’s always best to be safe when raising a dog.