Vocal surgery for dogs consists of a procedure where the dog's vocal cords are severed for the purpose of reducing barking. This type of surgery is usually used as a last resort for severe cases of incessant barking that have not responded well to other methods.
Vocal surgery in dogs is also known as vocal cordectomy or, more commonly, as debarking. In this procedure, the dog's vocal cords are partially or almost completely removed.
The surgery is performed under total anaesthesia, and the vocal cords may be reached through the mouth or through the voice box (larynx). The latter method may be more expensive, but it is preferable because it does not leave internal scars.
It is important to point out that the surgery does not lead to a totally silent dog. Rather, the dog may still be able to bark, but generally the bark is softer, lower pitched and therefore less likely to bother neighbours.
There are several other methods to resort to before proceeding with the surgical bark removal procedure. Training aids and methods to consider prior to the surgery may be: voice commands, leash corrections, use of a prong collar, citronella collars and shock collars.
De-barking is often thought as being a cruel procedure and is currently banned in some countries. However, in some cases, it may be a life saver for a dog that other wise would be sent on death row at the shelter for a serious barking problem.
The vocal cord surgery comes with its own sets of risks: the vocal cords may develop scar tissue, the dog may have coughing and gagging episodes and, last but not least, the dog may ultimately be able to regain its ability to bark. It is imperative that a skilful veterinarian is consulted for the procedure.