“Debarking” surgery to silence dogs risks their lives and sometimes does not work


Q: We live in an apartment complex where there are a lot of dogs barking. Some tenants want to require the owners of these dogs to have them “skinned”. What do you think about this?

A: I am against it, and because it is widely considered inhumane, the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association and the American Animal Hospital Association have taken a stand against “debarking”. Plus, it’s illegal in some states.

In my opinion, the only reason a dog should have surgery is if the benefit to the dog outweighs the risk and pain associated with the procedure. Clearly, this is not the case here.

“Debarking” surgery, or devocalization, involves removing the parts of the dog’s throat that are producing the bark. The dog ends up with a hoarse bark that is softer than normal. Devocalization deprives the dog of an important method of communication, preventing it from engaging in normal canine behavior.

Additionally, debarking surgery causes pain and carries risks associated with anesthesia, bleeding, swelling of the airways, and infection. Delayed risks include cough and nausea, scarring and narrowing of the throat, difficulty breathing, exercise and heat intolerance, aspiration pneumonia and collapse.

Inexplicably, normal barking returns within a few months in some dogs.

Harmful barking can result from boredom, social isolation, external stimuli, territorial protection, poor training, separation anxiety, cognitive decline, or any of the following. many other triggers. It is best treated with changes in the home, dog day care, training, behavior modification, and sometimes medication.

I suggest renters of apartments with dogs hire a certified veterinary behaviorist or canine behaviorist with a masters or doctorate degree to educate them on how to deal with nuisance barking. Then, each tenant with a barking dog must make an appointment with the behaviorist for individual therapy.

Q: Joy, my 12 year old cat, is constipated. Her stool has gotten harder and drier over the past year, and she is now struggling to push out what looks like small pebbles. What do you recommend?

A: I advise you to make an appointment with Joy’s vet. Once her vet determines the cause of her constipation, appropriate treatment can be put in place.

Joy may require a brief hospital stay to relieve her condition, determine its cause, and, if dehydrated, normalize her hydration.

A common cause of constipation is a decrease in the motility of the large intestine, also called the colon.

Normally, when the muscle wall of the large intestine contracts to move feces, the colon absorbs water from feces in the body to help maintain hydration. This process turns wet stools into healthy stools that you are used to seeing in the litter box. But if the colon’s motility is slowed down, the stool stays there longer than usual, becoming unusually dry and hard.

Another cause of Joy’s constipation could be chronic kidney disease, which reduces the kidneys’ ability to store water and prevent dehydration. The large intestine compensates by absorbing more water from the stool, leaving it excessively dry and hard.

Lack of exercise, obesity, and conditions that cause pelvic pain, such as arthritis or abnormal growth, can also induce constipation.

Depending on the cause of Joy’s constipation, treatment may include giving her medication, increasing the fiber content in her diet, adding enough water to her canned food to make it soft, offering her broth. , provide him with a water cooler or give him a sterile electrolyte solution under the skin. .

Without treatment, Joy could develop megacolon, a serious and painful condition in which the colon is dilated and unable to contract normally.

When Joy visits her vet, bring a fecal sample. The vet will likely want to do blood and urine tests to help determine the cause of Joy’s constipation and recommend effective treatment.

Lee Pickett, VMD, practices pet medicine in North Carolina. Contact her at


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