While dogs cannot speak like humans, they are able to communicate through barking. In order to bark, they also need to create some sound. The way they do so is not that dissimilar to how their human caretakers produce the sounds that form words.
If humans can lose their voices, meaning fail to create the sounds that make up words, then it is not impossible that their four-legged pets can sound hoarse. In some cases, the dog suddenly becomes silent due to its inability to produce its bark. Some owners do not even realize that their dogs have lost their voice until a once-vocal pet turns completely quiet.
How Do Dogs Bark?
In order to understand what happens to a dog when it loses its voice, it is imperative to explain how they can bark in the first place.
Like human beings, dogs have a larynx at the back of their throats. The larynx is also referred to as the voice box because its main purpose is to produce sounds or voice. But beyond this purpose, the larynx also protects the airways and the trachea, making sure that the food does not enter and lead to breathing problems.
The larynx is composed of muscles, tissues, cartilage, and vocal cords. The last one, the vocal cords, opens up so that air can go inside the trachea and the lungs. On the other hand, it closes up when the pet is swallowing food. To produce sound, the vocal cords create vibrations from the air moving through the mouth and the throat. The air pressure that is passing through the voice box will either open and close the vocal cords and in turn, sound is created.
Signs Of Voice Loss In Dogs
When a human or a dog loses its voice, it does not happen instantaneously. No one suddenly fades off mid-sentence or mid-bark. Instead, it starts to waver or become strained, and the symptoms simply get worse in time. The inability to produce sound may last only for a few hours or it may last several days, depending on the cause. When it does last longer, it is much easier for humans to notice their dogs’ sudden silence.
If you have a pretty vocal dog that likes to bark a lot, then it is easy to observe any changes especially when the voice loss does not accompany an illness. You may start to notice that your pooch will have a weaker bark or produce a rasping sound. This may also cause your pet to be distressed and start acting subdued or begin to ticking its tail. You may also observe it whining and even lose its appetite.
The symptoms will vary, however, based on the cause of the voice loss. Your dog’s body language will also help you decide whether the reason is serious enough to get help. Losing the voice due to excessive barking or because of a cold will not be as long-lasting as if there is another reason. Other symptoms will also determine the cause. For example, coughing, labored breathing or squeaking sounds might point to an obstruction.
The challenge of catching a dog that has lost its voice is the fact that most dog owners are away from their pets most of the time. Thus, they have to keep their eyes out for unusual behavior these pets display when they do not feel normal. They may decide to hide somewhere quiet because they feel unwell and tuck their tail. They may also display raspy panting, snorting, wheezing, or pawing at their mouth. You may also observe head turning and lip licking. Lastly, you might see it having problems breathing and swallowing.
Causes Of Dogs Losing Their Voice
There are quite a few reasons behind dogs suddenly being unable to bark normally. Some of these causes are linked to illnesses but some dogs are simply more prone to it because of their breed or their biology. When the reason seems to be beyond just excessive barking, it is important to get the professional advice of a vet to get the right treatment for voice loss and its underlying condition. The vet can also explain the risk factors of certain breeds and prescribe steps to lessen the problem.
Laryngitis can also occur in dogs as it does with humans. What many dog owners do not realize, though, is that some breeds are more prone to this condition. Dogs with short muzzles, or brachycephalic dogs, might experience the inflammation of the larynx more often than other breeds.
Other causes of laryngitis include an upper respiratory tract infection or an irritation of the mucosal lining of the voice box. It may be due to some dust, smoke, gas, or foreign objects. A laryngeal inflammation may also occur because of allergies or kennel cough. This inflammation, fluid buildup, and swelling of the larynx may compromise its function. Beyond losing its voice, your pet may experience breathing issues.
- Laryngeal Paralysis
This condition is quite common in large breeds of advanced age and is identified by a weak bark and raspy breathing. This is because the vocal cords swell up and become paralyzed. They stick together and start to compromise the dog’s breathing.
The swelling can be attributed to the nerves around the voice box. When they become damaged, they cannot produce the electrical impulses that will open or close the vocal cords. Sound production is only possible when this opening and closing happens very quickly and produce vibrations, so the pet will lose its voice.
Laryngeal Paralysis can be observed in breeds like Great Danes, Labrador Retrievers, Weimaraners, Golden Retrievers, and other similar large breeds. It is more common in their advanced ages but younger dogs may also suffer congenital laryngeal paralysis. This condition may also occur in pets who have uncontrolled hypothyroidism, tumors in the neck, or trauma to the laryngeal nerve.
- Collapse Of The Larynx
A laryngeal collapse occurs commonly in short-faced dogs like Boston Terriers and English Bulldogs. In these cases, the voice box becomes less rigid and is unable to support the larynx. In the end, sound production is affected.
But beyond affecting the voice of your pet, a laryngeal collapse can be life-threatening. It can obstruct the airway and cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems. In these cases, it is vital that the pet gets treated by a vet as soon as possible. Surgery, including a tracheotomy, might be necessary.
- Throat Hoarseness
Overusing the vocal cords can lead to the throat becoming hoarse. This can easily happen when your pet has been barking for a long period of time. If this is the reason your dog has lost its voice, seeing the vet is not necessary and instead, your pooch requires rest.
- Obstruction Or Injury
If there is something on the dog’s throat, it may display loss of voice and have issues with breathing. It may be identified by signs like difficulty breathing, coughing, squeaking. At the same time, injury to the voice box can be caused by the use of a dog choke collar.
An infection in the throat, ear, or the respiratory tract can affect the dog’s vocal production. It can be identified by other symptoms like sensitive, red ears, and being hesitant to eat because it has problems swallowing. It’s good to know that this can be easily treated with a course of anti-inflammatory medication or antibiotics.
- Psychological Issues
New dog owners who adopt rescues might notice their new additions to the family quieter than other pups. They might simply be timid at the beginning but this may change once it starts becoming comfortable in its new home. However, some dogs that may have suffered abuse from previous owners might have been silenced. Getting them to be more vocal might take time, but with love and patience, you can overcome their negative past.
Diagnosing Voice Loss In Dogs
Beyond the 7 listed above, there are many other conditions that might manifest or lead to voice loss in dogs. Thus, dog owners should try to observe their pets well to help with the diagnosis. Any other symptoms they notice should be reported to the vet so that an accurate diagnosis can be done. In many situations, pinpointing the cause is important to find the right treatment and avoid any complications.
Of course, it does not mean that a temporary loss of voice immediately warrants a call to the vet. If you notice your pet barking more than normal, then it can be expected that they will sound raspy. But if there is no obvious reason for it, then you should start paying closer attention and looking for other symptoms. If your pup is uneasy and displays other worrying signs, then it is time to make an appointment with the vet.
When dogs lose their voice, then it can be attributed to different causes, some not so serious but others may be life-threatening. Knowing how to identify the cause of action to be taken can help you find the right course to take and help your pup find its voice again.