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What is Hoarse?

Excessive barking and excitement can lead to temporary hoarseness in your dog, but it usually doesn’t last long.  There may be an underlying medical cause for your dog’s hoarse and raspy bark if your dog has not been barking loudly and excitedly for an extended period before the onset of hoarse sounds.  Like you, your dog uses his larynx to make sounds, such as barking.  Damage or disease to the larynx usually manifests hoarse or raspy, muted sounds.  Some of the common medical causes for hoarse barking in your dog are:

  • Laryngitis
  • Laryngeal trauma
  • Laryngeal paralysis
  • Toxicity and poisoning

Observing other signs will help you determine the cause of your dog’s hoarse sounds, whether from excessive barking or due to an underlying medical condition.

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Why Hoarse Occurs in Dogs

You have cause to be concerned if your dog has not spent the day in a barking fit but seems hoarse or raspy.  Several medical conditions affecting the larynx can give your dog’s voice a hoarse sound.  

Laryngitis

Laryngitis is inflammation of the soft tissue and cartilage of the uppermost part of the trachea, known as the larynx or “voice box.”  A bacterial, viral, or fungal infection, as well as inhaled allergens, can cause inflammation.  Other symptoms to look for include coughing or gasping for air, bluish gums, increased heart rate, and fever.

Laryngeal Trauma

Injury to the neck may cause laryngeal trauma and hoarse, labored sounds in your dog.  A choke collar or a jerking motion to the neck can cause injury.  A perforation to the neck by an animal bite or sharp foreign objects like a bone or small stick can lead to injury and hoarse sounds.  If you know or suspect your dog has experienced a traumatic injury you should seek immediate medical assistance.  

Laryngeal Paralysis

Laryngeal paralysis occurs when the nerves controlling the muscles that hold and move the tissue of the larynx weaken and the cartilage falls inward.  The cause of paretic nerves in dogs is unknown, but an injury to the neck or a developing mass (tumor) can injure or compress the nerves.  While laryngeal paralysis can occur in any breed at any age, Irish Setters and Labradors are more likely to be affected as they age. Congenital forms and early onset of laryngeal paralysis are also more likely to occur in Bouvier de Flandres, Siberian Huskies, Bull Terriers, and Dalmatians.  

Toxicity and Poisoning

Certain plants and other household items can cause toxicity in your dog that might lead him to have a hoarse voice or bark.  Plants such as the Virginia Creeper, the Flamingo plant (Anthurium), and American evergreen (Nephthytis) occur naturally in certain localities or can be kept as houseplants.  If your dog ingests these or other plants, he might experience poisoning.  Other signs to look for are diarrhea, vomiting, over vocalization, or obstruction of the airway.

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What to do if your Dog is Hoarse

If you believe your dog’s hoarse bark is due to a medical condition, you should see your veterinarian.  Your veterinarian will ask you questions like how long the hoarseness has been present, and if there are any accompanying signs such as fever, vomiting, diarrhea, or conditions like recent trauma.  Your veterinarian will perform a physical examination and look at your dog’s larynx with an endoscope.  In extreme cases, when your dog is experiencing airway obstructions, your vet will place a tracheotomy tube in your dog’s neck to stabilize his breathing until the issue is fixed.

Anti-inflammatory medication, antibiotics, and bronchodilators prescribed by your veterinarian can control signs for a dog with moderated paralysis of the larynx. However, most dogs with paralysis of the larynx will require surgery. During surgery, sutures are placed in the trachea to keep it open for airflow.  After surgery, you should avoid using neck collars and feeding your dog wet foods.  Food with gravies can increase the risk of your dog aspirating.  

If you suspect your dog has eaten a plant that might have caused him to have a hoarse voice you should identify the plant and the possible quantity your dog ate.  Maybe poisonous plants are bitter-tasting, and your dog will not consume much before he stops.  You can start with rinsing your dog’s mouth with cool water and encouraging him to drink before taking him to the veterinarian.  Bring a sample of the suspected plant or substance with you for your vet to review.  If your dog ingested a large quantity of the plant or substance, your veterinarian will administer intravenous fluid therapy to prevent dehydration and help process the poison. Antihistamines and pain relievers may also be given to your dog to help ease the condition.

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Prevention of Hoarse

Avoid using choke collars and jerking motions on leads to prevent injury to the larynx or exacerbating a mild condition of laryngeal paralysis; especially in smaller dogs.  Excess heat and exercise can also affect conditions and should be avoided if possible.  Though dogs require socialization, try to avoid unfamiliar, aggressive, or feral dogs to prevent a potential fight and trauma to the neck.    

When you open your home and heart to a dog, you have to familiarize yourself with the possible plants and common household substances that might be toxic to your pet.  You should keep potential hazardous items out of your dog’s reach.  If you are not sure about a particular plant or substance, you can find additional information on substances from Poison Control or through your veterinarian’s office.

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Cost of Hoarse

The cost of treating your dog’s hoarse bark or voice will depend on the underlying medical cause.  For example, the cost of treatment for ingesting a poisonous plant can be between $650 and $1,500 depending on the plant while the cost of treating hoarseness due to laryngeal paralysis can cost between $1,200 and $6,000 depending on the severity and necessary course of treatment.

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Hoarse Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Rat Terrier

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Eight Years

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12 found helpful

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Hoarse

My dog sounds hoarse when he darks, like he is in pain. Plus he yelped with I pet his head but I think it was his ear. He hasn’t been anywhere new and he hasn’t eaten anything abnormal

Dec. 18, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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12 Recommendations

I'm sorry to hear your dog has these issues. A hoarse bark can have many causes including an upper respiratory tract infection and laryngitis. Dogs can also become hoarse if they were barking excessively prior. Yelping indicates pain and if his ear is sore, there may well be an infection. A vet visit is best so they can check him all over. He may well benefit from some anti-inflammatories or antibiotics.

Dec. 18, 2020

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Chihuahua

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Five Years

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19 found helpful

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Hoarse Sounding

My dog got back from being boarded for two nights and now sounds really hoarse. It’s possible he was barking at the facility, but he’s not usually a big barker. I know dogs can also pick up disease when boarding. He also strained very hard against his tether in the car on the way there and home. Is this something that needs to be seen right away or should I wait?

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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19 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. If he is not coughing, I think it would be okay to give him a day or two and see if he gets his voice back. It isn't uncommon for dogs to bark in kennels, and he may just need to give his throat a rest. If he starts coughing, or his voice is not returning, then having him seen would be a good idea. I hope that all goes well!

Oct. 4, 2020

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