What Causes a Dog’s Bark to Change?


After so many years of owning your dog, you are well familiar with the pitch of your dog’s bark, and therefore, you can quickly recognize any changes, so now you’re likely wondering what causes a dog’s bark to change. Does a dog’s bark change as he ages? Can dogs develop a hoarse voice as it happens to humans? These are all good questions. If your dog’s bark has changed and it’s seeming to persist, you may want to seek help from your vet, changes in a dog’s barking can be due to underlying medical problems.

Hoarseness From Over Barking

If you are wondering whether a dog can develop hoarseness from barking too much, consider that the answer is yes, dogs can get hoarse from over barking because they have strained their vocal cords.

This is often seen in dogs who are boarded, kenneled at the groomer’s or at the vet or dogs who are in new surroundings which triggers them to become hyper vigilant, and thus, engage in lots of barking.

In these cases, the hoarseness resolves in just a few days if you are able to keep your dog calm and quiet. Your best bet is to stop your dog from barking for about five days or so, so that his vocal cords can get some well deserved, rest.

If your dog’s barking is triggered by outdoors noises, you may find it helpful to play some white noise so that they are muffled. If the barking is triggered by outside sights instead, you may want to place a blind or curtain so to block your dog’s view, suggests veterinarian Dr. Fiona. 

Does a Dog’s Bark Change with Age?

If your dog is getting older, you may wonder whether a dog’s bark changes with age. The truth is that, no, hoarseness in dogs doesn’t typically happen with age. If your senior dog’s voice has changed recently, you may want to see your vet, as this can be indicative of some type of change that is affecting the way your dog’s vocal cords are functioning, explains veterinarian Dr. Lucy. 

There are several medical conditions that can impact the dog’s vocal cords to such an extent to cause changes to the dog’s barking sound. Not coincidentally though, the chances of developing several of these conditions heightens as the dog ages.

So while old dogs don’t develop a change in their barking sound simply because they are getting older, it’s important to consider that senior dog are prone to developing medical conditions that cause voice changes, but in this case, they’re secondary to these conditions. A sudden voice change in an elderly dog is therefore something worthy of investigating with the help of your vet.

Weakening of Dog’s Larynx

As a dog ages, the muscles that control the voice box may weaken and ultimately lead to a neurological condition known as laryngeal paralysis. Dogs with laryngeal paralysis develop several symptoms that affects their airway and voice. Affected dogs may be coughing and gagging while they eat or drink, pant heavily, have trouble exercising and may develop a voice change.

Dog owners  in particular often notice a raspy sound when their dog is heavily panting. This sound tends to occur because the airway is tighter than normal due to the laryngeal muscles not opening as they should. Some dogs may even develop problems breathing and can even faint.

Laryngeal paralysis is mostly found in large breed dogs that are middle-aged or older and it tends to have a gradual onset over time. The condition can occur secondary to underlying conditions that weaken the dog’s laryngeal muscles such as hypothyroidism, Addison’s disease or cancer.

In moderate cases, the condition can be managed by preventing triggering events, but in severe cases, dogs may need surgical intervention. Surgery to treat laryngeal paralysis is known as “laryngeal paralysis tie back” or more technically, arytenoid lateralization. 

A Matter of Local Irritation

Anything that can cause irritation to the dog’s vocal cords can change a dog’s voice. For example,  an upper respiratory tract infection such as kennel cough, a grass awn stuck in the throat or trauma to the throat as seen in collapsing trachea affecting small dogs, can cause a certain extent of hoarseness, but these conditions are often accompanied by coughing.

Sometimes dogs may develop masses that cause local irritation to the voice box and therefore voice changes. The masses can be benign such as innocent polyps or in some cases they may be malignant such as cancer of the larynx of trachea.

As seen, the causes for a dog’s voice change can be several. Unless your dog has barked a whole lot and gets better with a few days of “rest” from barking, you may want to see your vet to find out the underlying cause for your dog’s voice change.

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