Changes in the Bark in Dogs

Key Takeaways

A change in a dog’s bark can sound like a different pitch or volume; hoarseness; or apparent strain. 

• Most conditions that lead to changes in a dog’s bark are not serious and can be easily corrected with minimal or no treatment

• Some underlying conditions associated with changes in the bark may be fatal, so investigation is important

• Overuse, laryngitis, or infectious diseases are the most common conditions associated with changes in the bark

• Diagnostics include a thorough physical and oral exam along with a detailed history

• Additional diagnostics and treatment vary widely based on the underlying cause

A Closer Look: What is Change of Bark in Dogs?

A change in a dog’s bark can sound like a different volume or pitch, hoarseness, or apparent strain. Changes to the sound of a dog’s bark are very common and often have benign, correctable causes.  If a dog is experiencing a change in the sound of its bark, investigation is always warranted as some causes are emergencies and may be fatal.

Possible Causes

A multitude of issues can cause a dog’s bark to change and can  include:

• Overuse (barking too much)

Laryngeal paralysis

Brachycephalic airway syndrome

• Choking/foreign object

• Injury to the vocal folds

• Cancer of the throat (pharynx)


• Laryngitis 

Masticatory myositis

Myasthenia gravis

• Degenerative myelopathy

• Distemper


Bromethalin toxicosis

• Dysautonomia


• Thyroid cancer


• Tuberculosis and other bacterial infections

• Smoke inhalation

• Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD)


Snake envenomation

Tick paralysis

Risk Factors

Symptoms vary based on the underlying cause.  A change in bark resulting from transient issues such as overuse, smoke inhalation, and laryngitis is likely to be the only symptom and may improve quickly without treatment. When changes are related to hypothyroidism, bacterial infection, or injury, the symptom is expected to resolve once the underlying condition is treated. Vocal changes associated with degenerative myelopathy, brachycephalic airway syndrome, or dysautonomia may cause a dog’s bark to be permanently altered. 

A change in bark as an isolated symptom is associated with more benign conditions. More serious conditions that might show a change in bark typically also have other more dramatic symptoms. Examination by a veterinary professional is warranted in either case.

Testing and Diagnosis

An oral and physical exam along with a detailed history are important first steps in diagnosing changes in the bark. More specific diagnostics may be indicated if symptoms and physical exam suggest there is an underlying condition.

Treatment and recovery time vary greatly depending on the underlying disease process. Benign causes such as overuse may require nothing more than rest and recovery is quick.   Cases that have more severe underlying causes, like IVDD, may require surgery, medications, and a long recovery period.

Similar symptoms

Respiratory difficulty may be confused with a change in sound of a dog’s bark and warrants immediate examination to make sure the dog is not experiencing a life threatening emergency.

Associated Symptoms

Due to the numerous conditions that  contribute to a change in a dog’s bark there are multiple symptoms that may occur. Common symptoms include: 

• Difficulty swallowing


• Choking

• Gagging

• A high pitched, whistling respiratory noise

• Pain

Weight loss


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