Have you ever caught your cat hiccupping? Probably not – it’s not very common for cats to hiccup, but it does happen. It is much more common in dogs, especially puppies. We asked around the office, and none of us here have ever seen a cat with hiccups, however if it does happen, here’s what you should know.
Hiccup, or “singultus,” is caused by the diaphragm contracting involuntarily at the same time the glottis closes. This is caused by irritation of the nerve that runs to the diaphragm. Hiccups can happen from swallowing too much air while eating, as occurs in small puppies or kittens, or can be caused by irritation of the gastrointestinal tract close to the nerve. Potential causes of gastritis include eating or drinking too fast, parasites, hairballs, foreign body ingestion, inflammatory bowel disease, food allergy, and many more. There have also been a few cases of increased calcium levels in the blood causing hiccups in dogs secondary to metabolic disease.
How long should a cat hiccups last?
Well, considering that its not as common in cats, and the fact that some serious medical conditions could be associated with hiccups, anything lasting longer than a few hours should be evaluated by a veterinarian.
What can you do to stop your cat from hiccupping?
Contrary to hiccups being a common complaint in humans, which is typically easily resolved with a variety of at-home therapies, cat hiccups are less common and can be associated with serious disease. Therefore, it is not recommended that pet parents try any home therapies to resolve hiccups in a cat. General tips include making sure the cat has plenty of food and water available, and giving the cat some calm quiet time. Some cats prefer running water, so a tap or circulating fountain should be made available. Do not attempt to force the cat to eat or drink!
What else should you know about cat hiccups?
There are a number of things that cats may do that could look like hiccups, when in fact a different problem is occurring. This could include respiratory distress, linear foreign body (thread, yarn, or ribbon ingestion), a foreign body in the airways, neurological conditions, or even a manifestation of purring–given that similar anatomic structures are involved in purring and hiccupping.
Hiccups themselves are unlikely to be dangerous, but in some cases they can be a sign of more serious disease. If your cat gets hiccups frequently or if they last for long periods of time, then a veterinary consultation should be sought. Your vet will probably recommend a physical exam, blood work, and possibly radiographs to rule out serious disease.
The research for this blog was assisted by Sierra Friedman, 4th Year WesternU DVM Candidate
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