To Bark or Debark: Vocal Cordectomy Surgery
To Bark or Not To Bark
Dogs bark because they are lonely, in pain, feel threatened, are bored, or happy. Dogs, like Shelties, are one of the more boisterous breeds. They love to chat, and can irritate neighbors and owners, alike. Their barks tend to be sharp and high-pitched, and the sound travels great distances.
Many dogs end up in shelters, or on the street because of their barking habits. Most cities have ordinances to provide avenues for people seeking relief from the noise of barking dogs. A visit from an animal control officer or a court appearance should not be needed to address a barking problem.
Debarking is a surgical procedure, also called vocal cordectomy, to decrease excessive barking. The procedure involves cutting away tissue from the dog's vocal cords. The goal of this surgery is to turn down the volume of the bark and stop the sound from traveling so far.
Debarking does not eliminate the animal's ability to bark, and your dog will continue to bark after the procedure. But, the bark will be more muted, softer and lower in pitch. The bark will be muffled and more tolerable. However, some owners still complain about the new bark. Perhaps they wanted the dog to stop barking entirely, but dogs bark, that's just the way it is. If people do not want to be subjected to barking, they should not get a dog!
Before placing your best friend in the hands of a surgeon, be sure the veterinarian is competent and has experience in this type of surgery. Be advised, some veterinarians will not perform the procedure, and cordectomy is not permitted in everywhere in the United States. To learn the laws of debarking in your area contact your State Veterinary Association.
Misinformation about this procedure abounds, and has sparked movements by animal rights interest groups to outlaw debarking procedures. Breeders, such as Charlotte McGowan, dog show judge with the American Kennel Club, and author of “The Shetland Sheep Dog in America,” profess dogs suffer no ill effects through the cordectomy procedure.
Ms. McGowan suggests debarking (making a small hole in each vocal chord) is a simple procedure when done by a skilled surgeon. The procedure is virtually bloodless, the dog is not stressed by the surgery, and recovers quickly. The procedure will not render a silent dog, but reduction in the barking pitch and volume will be achieved.
The debarking procedure has been a valuable tool against euthanasia, for many pets. Dogs can be subjected to abusive treatment, by their owners, because they bark. Shelties, in particular, can be irritating and vocal. They bark at squirrels, birds, passing people, lawn care equipment, and the sound of a started engine. They are inquisitive and extremely alert to their surroundings.
The debarking procedure is relatively simple. Actually, the surgery is less traumatic than the removal of the uterus in spaying, or testicles in neutering surgeries. Many dogs bark a lot, such as herding dogs, small dogs, and mixed breed dogs. In heavily populated neighborhoods, barking can cause problems between neighbors. Quarrels have become intense between neighbors, and dogs have been subjected to needless suffering or death. Some pets were fed poison or other life-threatening substances by a disgruntled neighbor.
Some suggest that debarking is emotionally damaging to dogs. Debarked dogs can bark, and even though the sound is reduced, they don't seem to notice any difference in their barks. In fact, debarked dogs are not constantly yelled at or disciplined for their barking habits; instead they appear to be happier and more relaxed.
The key lies within the veterinary skill.