Rare but Possible Canine Health Conditions that Cause Hiccups
There are several diseases and health issues that do have hiccups as a symptom. This includes:
Inflammatory bowel disease
- This is a disorder in which the intestines become inflamed and eventually do not properly absorb nutrients. With this, early signs are very subtle and may include hiccups. As this progresses there are serious symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea and weight loss.
Small bowel obstruction
- The Boxer breed is certainly a dog that is known to mouth and swallow things that he shouldn't and this can lead to quite serious internal blockage
. While partial or full obstruction will have obvious signs including vomiting a clear fluid, trouble having a bowel movement and general distress, a small partial blockage in the stomach (not generally the intestines) can put pressure on the diaphragm which results in hiccups. Look for weakness, reluctance to eat, dry heaving, vomiting (any color, food, fluid and/or bile) and/or trouble going to the bathroom.
- This stands for gastro-esophageal reflux disease. With this, there is a reverse flow of gastric or intestinal fluids into the esophagus, which is the tube that connects the throat and the stomach. This happens with young puppies more often than older dogs, but can develop in a Boxer dog of any age. This can range from mild to severe and includes symptoms of varying intensity of regurgitation (vomiting up undigested food), signs of pain when swallowing (reluctance to drink and/or eat), hiccups, drooling
and/or fever. In later stages this leads to weight loss.
- Essentially any medical condition that affects a dog's breathing can also cause frequent episodes of hiccups. This includes pneumonia and asthma.
Central Nervous System issues
- This includes brain tumors which do affect the Boxer breed more often than many other breeds. The Boxer dog and other brachycephalic breeds are prone to a specific type of brain tumor known as gliomas. This is seen more often in older, senior Boxers. Signs include changes in behavior such as pacing and circling. The dog may have trouble walking and show signs of clumsiness. There may also be trouble swallowing, hiccups and a rapid flickering of the eye (nystagmus). Some dogs may also suffer from seizures
, though this is not always the case.
- Any disorder that affects a dog's metabolism can also cause frequent hiccups. This includes hyperglycemia, hypoglycemia and diabetes. There will be symptoms including weight changes, acting tired and usually changes to the skin and coat.
Conditions that affect the vagus nerve
- The vagus nerve is the longest of the 12 cranial nerves, extending from the brainstem to the abdomen. It touches the lungs and esophagus. If there is irritation to this nerve it can trigger hiccups. The most common condition affecting this nerve is irritation in the throat area and with canines this is most often due to allergies or thyroid disease. The latter causes a swelling of the larynx which can trigger hiccups. Much rarer would be meningitis.
How to Help a Boxer Dog Stop Hiccupping
For acute cases where you feel that it's in your Boxer's best interest to intervene, there are some old 'stand-by' methods that may help stop a puppy or dog from hiccuping. It's important to note that what may work for one dog may have no affect at all on another. So if a person owned two Boxers and both had hiccups, they may each need a different treatment to stop. You may also find that your Boxer responds best if more than one method is used in succession.
Here is what has been found to help:
1) Offering the right food or giving water
- Basically anything that changes the pattern of how a dog breathes can make hiccups stop. One of the best foods for this is smooth peanut butter. When a dog is given peanut butter he can't quickly swallow it (though with Boxers, you never really know!) and since it makes a puppy or dog smack it around in their mouth and work their lips, this can disrupt the spasms. Usually, that's all they need, a quick disruption and the episode will stop. You'll want to offer a level teaspoon for Boxer puppies
under the age of 1 year old and a slightly heaped tablespoon for full grown dogs. Alternatively, encouraging a dog to drink water can help, but most dogs will not drink on command.
2) A quick bout of cardio exercise
- As with the method of interrupting breathing patterns via food, taking your Boxer outside for a 10 minute game of fetch can accelerate his heartbeat and cause him to inhale deeply enough to stop hiccups. Additionally, if a Boxer seems distressed by the spasms, this is a good way to get his focus on something else.
3) Targeted massage
- Not only is this one possible treatment for hiccups with Boxer dogs, it also helps a dog calm down if the contractions have caused him to be anxious, which is often the case when hiccups last longer than 15 or 20 minutes. You'll want to have your Boxer sit or lie down on his side. Massage the chest area, with an alternating motion of stroking down and then in circles. Since a tensing of the diaphragm is one of the elements that occurs at onset, this can work by relaxing that and the surrounding muscles.
How to Know if Hiccups are Lasting too Long
A random, acute case is often ignored by both owner and dog and is nothing to be concerned with. If your Boxer is hiccuping just about every day, even if it is for a short amount of time, you'll want to look to the typical triggers such as how rapidly he or she is eating and drinking, the level of grains in the dog's food
and over-excitement issues.
It will be time to have a Boxer evaluated if:
- If a week goes by and a Boxer is hiccuping more days than not
- If episodes are lasting for more than 20 minutes and not responding to the at-home treatments
- If a Boxer appears distressed during the hiccups
- If there are any other signs of a health condition, including but not limited to breathing issues, appetite changes, weight loss, skin or coat changes (dryness, thinning), vomiting, diarrhea, straining when having a bowel movement, excessive saliva, pacing, circling and/or rapid blinking.