Horse Hiccups: An Overview of Equine “Thumps”
“Thumps” first got its name from the repetitive thumping noise that was heard coming from the abdomen of a horse after a 13-mile race back in the mid-1800s. In less severe cases, the contraction of the horse’s diaphragm may only be felt or seen as rhythmic twitches or spasms in the abdominal/flank area and not heard. If possible, an episode of thumps should be videotaped as the condition may not last long enough for the veterinarian to observe first-hand.
The circled area shows where contractions of the diaphram may be seen, felt, or heard
Photo by Alicia Zoe Becker
A mild case of thumps often goes away on its own after rest, rehydration, and replenishment of electrolytes. More severe cases – or situations where the horse is exhausted and dehydrated – need immediate veterinary intervention. With substantial fluid and electrolyte loss, a veterinarian may need to quickly administer a balanced electrolyte solution through a stomach tube or even intravenous (IV) catheter. Blood work may be needed to measure hydration status as well as electrolyte and pH balance and determine the underlying cause of thumps.
There are more differences than similarities between hiccups in humans and hiccups in horses (thumps). Because thumps in horses is due to low blood levels of calcium, it is important to work with a veterinarian to identify the underlying reason for hypocalcemia and correct or avoid it.
SmartPak strongly encourages you to consult your veterinarian regarding specific questions about your horse's health. This information is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease, and is purely educational.