Dogs and barking seem to go together. Dogs tend to bark to attract attention to things they seem to think of as important, but sometimes they appear to be barking at absolutely nothing at all. I think it is safe to assume that many of us would like very much to be able to exert complete control over our dogs' barking, but aside from an appropriately timed growl, a dog's bark is often her most effective means of communication.
Thus, despite the fact that it may seem like a blessing when our dogs bark with hoarse “voices,” it is always a surprise, as well as a cause for concern.
What to Look For
To investigate further, try taking a look down your dog's throat. Get a flashlight or take your dog to a spot with very good light. If you can, get someone else to help out.
Begin by petting your dog the way you normally would. In a few minutes, begin rubbing her ears and working your way to her muzzle. Place your left thumb on the right side of your dog's upper lip, just behind the large canine teeth. Place your left index and middle fingers on the left side of your dog's upper lip, just behind the large canine teeth. Do the same with your right hand on her lower lip, and then open her mouth like a clam shell.
Take a good look inside her mouth and down her throat. Look for irritation and coatings on the tongue and back of throat. Check for masses and foreign bodies. Listen for coughing and to your dog's breathing.
What to Do
Next, ask yourself these questions:
- Has your dog recently been barking for long periods of time? This could be a reasonable explanation for the change in sound. Like with people who have been yelling at athletic events, overuse can result in a sore throat and a hoarse voice.
- Does your dog have a fever? Dogs with a hoarse bark and a fever may have an upper respiratory infection. In the case of many bacterial infections, a look down your dog's throat may reveal a thick coating on the tongue or back of the throat, ranging in color from white to yellowish or green.
- Is your dog having difficulty swallowing? Dogs with viral or bacterial infections, masses, or obstructive foreign bodies in their throats may have difficulty swallowing. In such instances, your dog's veterinarian is the best one to have a look down your dog's throat to see what is causing the difficulty.
When to Get the Vet
Is your dog coughing or breathing with a raspy sound? While both these symptoms could be indications of bacterial or viral infections, they could also be associated with a form of paralysis that affects the nerves of the larynx. This is a diagnosis that can only be made by your veterinarian and should be made soon since this problem will often result in aspiration of your dog's food into the lungs, which, in turn, can cause pneumonia.