It’s always best to be well-prepared when you get a new pet. Guinea pigs are cute, entertaining pets, but most people have had limited experience with guinea pigs before purchasing their first pair. Guinea pigs exhibit a range of different behaviors, and sometimes it can be hard to tell what’s normal and what’s not. In this post, we answer a frequently asked question; can guinea pigs get hiccups?
Guinea pigs can get hiccups, and it is not uncommon. Generally, guinea pig hiccups are temporary and pass quickly. They can be a sign of ill health in the guinea pig if they persist for long periods or occur often. Guinea hiccups can range from soft and almost inaudible, or they can be quite loud and obvious.
Identifying all the squeaks and noises made by guinea pigs can be challenging at first. Hiccups in guinea pigs can be quite scary the first time you hear them, so it is useful to know what is normal.
Do Guinea Pigs Hiccup?
It is common for guinea pigs to get hiccups, similar to how people do. Usually, they are harmless and pass after a few minutes. Oftentimes they are so quiet, you may not even notice it occurring! Many guinea pig owners get worried when they first hear their guinea pig hiccupping, but it is a very normal thing for your guinea pig to do from time to time.
What Are Hiccups?
Hiccups are an involuntary physiological reaction that occurs in most mammals, including guinea pigs. Hiccups occur as a result of spasms of the diaphragm muscle. This is a very large dome-shaped muscle that separates the abdomen and the chest. The muscle is located just above the stomach.
Spasms in the diaphragm cause air to be sucked into the guinea pig’s throat. The vocal cords close when the air hits them. This results in the characteristic vocalization associated with hiccups.
What Do Guinea Pig Hiccups Sound Like?
Guinea pig hiccups can vary in intensity. They may be mild, and the hiccup noise is very soft. The guinea pig’s body spasms or twitches slightly, and a very soft cough type of noise may be heard.
At other times the guinea pig may have more intense hiccups. These are louder and sound like a sharp bark or cough.
What Is The Difference – Guinea Pig Hiccups and Coughing?
Guinea pig hiccups occur rhythmically, and the little animal’s body spasms simultaneously. There are usually even periods between hiccups. When a guinea pig coughs, there is no rhythm, and it occurs irregularly. Coughing will persist over several days but hiccups last for a limited time.
Coughing is often accompanied by a runny nose or wheezing sounds in the chest. Coughing can be a sign of pneumonia or illness; these symptoms will usually be seen alongside the coughing.
What Causes Hiccups In Guinea Pigs?
Scientists have been puzzled for many years about why people, animals, and guinea pigs have hiccups. As far as researchers can determine, there is no physiological reason for hiccups. Despite hiccups being common, there has been very little research on hiccups in people and guinea pigs.
One researcher has suggested that hiccups may be the body’s attempt to expel excess air from the stomach, but this is not proven yet.
Guinea pigs hiccup most often when eating, drinking, or just afterward. The guinea pig may eat or drink too quickly or swallow a slightly larger piece of food. This could trigger the nerves supplying the diaphragm muscle resulting in hiccups.
Heaving hiccups occur when a piece of food gets lodged in the esophagus. These hiccups can sound like the guinea pig is choking, and most owners find them distressing. They pass as the food moves down the esophagus.
Hiccups can also be caused by gastrointestinal abnormalities or illness. Hiccups may be triggered if the guinea pig suffers from bloat, pancreatitis, or some other digestive upset.
Other diseases may cause hiccups. Brain injuries or tumors, heart irregularities, or hernias may also trigger hiccups.
Hiccups are more common in the immature digestive systems of both human babies and guinea pigs. It is common for baby guinea pigs to have hiccups quite often. Unborn babies may even develop hiccups.
Hiccups may also be caused by stress. The vagus nerve enervates the diaphragm but is also closely connected to mood. As a result, stress or anxiety can trigger the vagal nerve and cause hiccups in guinea pigs.
How Long Do Hiccups Last In Guinea Pigs?
Just like in people, hiccups usually only last for a few minutes in guinea pigs before stopping. Sometimes hiccups can last longer than a few minutes, but they should ultimately subside.
Hiccups may occur when the guinea pig is not eating or drinking. These hiccups can be more concerning as they may indicate that the guinea pig is sick.
Are Hiccups Dangerous For Guinea Pigs?
Hiccups are not usually dangerous for guinea pigs. Scientists call them a benign physiological response or reflex. Hiccups will not damage the guinea pig. An extended period of hiccups can make a guinea pig slightly tired, but it is unusual for hiccups to last long, and they are not of any concern.
Hiccups may be an indication of underlying disease or pathology. If a guinea pig has frequent recurrent bouts of hiccups, it is wise to consult an exotic animal veterinarian for a health check.
How To Stop Hiccups In Guinea Pigs
It is not usually necessary for owners to do anything if their guinea pig has hiccups. The guinea pig should spontaneously stop hiccupping in a short while.
Hiccups associated with treats such as vegetables can be managed by hand-feeding the guinea pigs to stop them from eating too fast. Also, be sure to provide your guinea pig with plenty of hay at all times to prevent gas and digestive upset and encourage them to graze throughout the day.
If the hiccups persist and the guinea pig seems agitated, the owner should try to remove all stress. Put the guinea pig in a quiet room and provide a dark, cozy den for the guinea pig to hide in.
If hiccups occur frequently, it may be a good idea to take your guinea pig in for a vet checkup to ensure there are no underlying causes that could be triggering the recurring hiccups.
Guinea pigs often get hiccups, but they are not usually a cause for concern. However, if hiccups occur often or for extended periods, it is worth checking the guinea pig’s health. As with all mammals, hiccups are a normal function in the body on occasion and they generally subside within a few minutes.