by Roger Ross DVM
This surgery is controversial in that it is sometimes deemed unnecessary and therefore cruel. I certainly think it's better to do a surgery like this, despite the potential problems, than to euthanize a pet because it's barking is driving the neighbors crazy.
Hopefully, though, you'll try some other methods; training, training collars, medications like clomipramine, Reconcile (Prozac) etc
Okay, here's more:
I personally was never taught how to do this surgery and have referred the few people that wanted it done to other vets. The procedure involves cutting the vocal cords, which, under anesthesia, can be approached through the open mouth or through an incision over the larynx. If the surgery is successful, the dog doesn't stop barking exactly, but the loudness and pitch of the bark is reduced to a squeak.
The surgery itself is a simple procedure but requires experience and precision in isolating and severing the cord without damaging any of the other delicate and vital structures in the area. And, of course, all the steps of pre-examination, pre-anesthetic testing, pre-anesthetic and surgical medications, instrument sterilization, site prep, anesthetic monitoring, and recovery nursing apply.
In addition to the normal negatives of expense and slight anesthetic and surgical risk, there are a couple of other reasons this is not a popular surgery:
1. The surgery sometimes isn't successful enough; the altered bark or squeak is still annoying
2. The reduced barking sound may not be permanent. The vocal cords sometimes heal enough for loud barking to resume.
3. The surgery is considered unnecessary by many and the recovery period is thought to be relatively uncomfortable. The reason the surgery is considered unnecessary is that there are several alternatives, all of which are various methods of training the dog to stop. Of course, training takes time and effort.
For more information about training, citronella collars, and electrical shock collars, please go to the behavior page of our shelter site where there are several articles about training barking dogs. And talk to your vet about behavioral modification medication if the problem is bad enough. The new drugs for separation anxiety often work well and also facilitate training.
So why do it?
If nothing else is working well and your dog is a neighborhood nuisance...this surgery will probably solve the problem...and it beats the common alternative of taking the dog to the pound.
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