Horse Hiccups (Thumps), also called synchronous diaphragmatic flutter (SDF), is a condition that affects horses when the diaphragm and the heartbeat synchronize. It is characterized by rhythmic contractions of the diaphragm due to the excitation of the phrenic nerve. It causes the horse to make a thumping sound and looks like hiccups.
WHAT CAUSES THUMPS?
Thumps is caused by various factors, including exercise, excitement, or anxiety. Prolonged strenuous activity, often seen during endurance rides, especially when it takes place during high heat and humidity, is one of the most common causes of Hiccups. Excessive sweating can result in electrolyte depletion, dehydration, or acid-base imbalances.
More serious underlying medical conditions may also contribute to thumps. These include gastrointestinal disease, sepsis, and lactation tetany (milk fever). Other horses may be infected by a blister beetle toxin which disrupts the cells responsible for maintaining normal pH levels within the body.
HOW ARE THUMPS TREATED?
Thumps treatment consists mainly of rest, rehydration, electrolyte replenishment, and, if necessary, calcium administration for severe cases. Thumps is generally not life-threatening as long as it is treated appropriately.
Your primary care veterinarian may also recommend additional testing to rule out the more severe conditions mentioned above.
THUMPS IN HORSES: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Thumps may look like innocuous human hiccups, but it is not. It represents severe electrolyte imbalances that can lead to secondary complications or hint at a more pressing medical issue. Please get in touch with your primary care veterinarian for further guidance if you think a horse is experiencing thumps.