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Does Your Dog Sound Different When They Bark?

Does Your Dog Sound Different When They Bark?

Health & Safety

Owning a dog is extremely rewarding because they give their owners so much pleasure and keep them fitter to boot. Over time, you soon get to recognise your dog's bark so if one day you notice they sound a little different than usual, then you may need to have them checked over by a vet because it could be sign of something more serious going on than just a cold.

A Problem with Their Larynx or Voice Box

Dogs and other animals use their vocal cords to make noises just as we do. Vibrations in their vocal cords allows a dog to bark, whimper and make other sounds typically associated with our canine friends. The cords are fibrous and form part of a more rigid chamber that's situated at the entrance of the trachea (windpipe) which is called the voice box or larynx.

The vibrations responsible for sounds a dog can makes are controlled by specific signals received from the brain but when these are interrupted, then it could cause a dog to either lose their voices altogether or for them to sound slightly different.

There are two main reasons why a dog's voice might change which are either caused mechanically where vibrations in their vocal cords are interrupted or it could be due to the fact no signals are being received from the brain to their vocal cords at all which means it could be a neurological disorder.

The Causes of a Mechanical Interruption

When dogs have a cold, just like in people, this can affect their vocal cords because it interferes with the needed vibrations in their vocal cords which allows them to make a noise. Other reasons include the following:

  • A swelling in the vocal cords caused by an infection
  • Inflammation of the vocal cords
  • Abscesses caused by foreign objects getting lodged in a dog's throat
  • Trauma whether it is internal or external
  • Upper respiratory infections will cause a dog's voice to alter and sound different
  • Tumours and cancer whether they are benign or malignant when situated near or in the trachea and larynx

Occasionally, young dogs may experience a change in their voices due to having suffered a severe neonatal virus infection which is typically seldom affects an older dog.

A Neurological Problem

Paralysis to the vocal cords can be caused by less stimulation being received from the brain. This naturally affects a dog's voice and can cause them to lose them altogether. These neurological interruptions can be due to several things which includes the following:

An Hereditary Paralysis

Certain breeds tend to suffer from an hereditary condition that sees puppies being born with specific abnormalities in the nerves found in their larynx. Breeds that appear to be most affected include:

  • Dalmatians
  • Bouviers des Flandres
  • Rottweilers
  • White coated German Shepherds

Breed Acquired Paralysis

Some breeds are more prone to suffering from acquired paralysis than others. It's a condition that affects the larynx in dogs later on in their lives and the breeds that seem to be the most affected include the following:

  • St Bernards
  • Newfoundlands
  • Irish Setters
  • Labradors
  • Golden Retrievers

Tumours and Cancer

Primary tumours found on the nerves around and in the vocal cords will affect a dog's voice because they interfere with the stimulation that should be received from the brain. However, even a tumour in a dog's throat, neck or chest can be the cause because it can “pinch” the nerves and thus affect stimulation too.


When a dog suffers from a severe chest infection it typically means inflammation can often affect nerves that control their larynx. The result is a change in a dog's voice, much the same as it would affect a person who is suffering from a cold or the flu.


Dogs suffering from hypothyroidism often suffer nerve damage to their larynx which as a result changes the sound of their voices.

Autoimmune Problems

All too often a dog's (and other animals) own immune systems can turn on them. It's the white blood cells that typically cause the damage instead of acting as a barrier against infections, they begin to attack a dog's nervous system. Nerves found in the larynx can be damaged and as a result a limited amount of nerve impulses are received by the vocal cords and larynx from the brain.

Disorders that Affect a Dog's Muscles

A dog's vocal cords are in fact another muscle found in their bodies and should a dog suffer any sort of muscle disorder, it can affect their voices to the point they lose their “bark” altogether.


Although having a cold would affect a dog's voice to some degree, if you are at all worried that your pet sounds a little different than usual, it is far safer to take them along to the vet for a check-up sooner rather than later. It's important to establish why a dog may be losing their “bark” because there are several health conditions that could be at the root cause of the problem. These condition can be quite serious so the earlier a diagnosis can be made, the sooner the condition can be correctly treated and the prognosis tends to be that much better too.