If your dog is normally a vocal creature, a sudden cessation of sound is cause for alarm. A dog who is unable to bark or vocalize may be experiencing a health problem, or he could simply be suffering the effects of barking too much. Get a vet to assess the problem and give you recommendations for treatment.
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Laryngeal paralysis is a condition found most frequently in older large-breed dogs, and is characterized by raspy breathing and a weakening bark. Vocal cords can become swollen, paralyzed and stuck together, compromising breathing. Sometimes surgical intervention is required to address the problem.
A severe condition, laryngeal collapse is a life-threatening form of airway obstruction in which laryngeal cartilage collapses and blocks the dog's airway. Immediate medical attention is required and surgical treatment, possibly including a tracheotomy, may be required.
Just like people, dogs can become hoarse if they overuse their vocal cords. If your dog has been barking for extended periods, this could be the case. While you should still make an appointment with your vet, in most cases rest is the recommended course of treatment.
Injury or Obstruction
A dog who has a foreign object launched in his throat may have trouble making sounds, and may have a compromised airway passage. Watch your dog for other signs that something may be obstructing his throat, such as squeaking, coughing or labored breathing. Injury from a choke chain can also damage the vocal cords.
Ailment or Infection
Your dog may have an ear, throat or respiratory infection compromising his ability to vocalize. This type of ailment may be accompanied by sensitive reddening ears or a hesitancy to eat due to trouble with swallowing. This condition is often treated with antibiotics and possibly anti-inflammatory medications.
Although kennel cough doesn't directly cause your dog to lose his voice, prolonged coughing can make him hoarse, which can diminish his ability to bark. Kennel cough is characterized by prolonged forceful coughing. The disorder usually remedies itself on its own, though antibiotics and canine cough medicines can ease symptoms.
If you recently adopted your dog from an animal shelter or rescue and notice he's not vocalizing as much as he should, he may have been surgically "debarked" by a former owner. Rescue dogs are also a bit timid at first, so he may not be very vocal until he gets comfortable in his new surroundings.
By Lisa McQuerrey
WebMD: Laryngeal Paralysis and Barking Problems in Dogs
All Dogs Gym & Inn: Rescue Dogs Go through a "Honeymoon" Period
MedicineNet.com: My Dog Is Barking Hoarsely
The Pet's Journal: My Beagle Is Losing His Voice
About the Author
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.