Can Dogs Lose Their Voice?

Rhiannon Koehler, DVM
By Rhiannon Koehler, DVM on Oct. 12, 2023
vlzsla dog at vet getting face looked at on exam table

Barking, growling, and whimpering are all important components of dog communication. Dogs can lose their voice due to various conditions, some of which may be serious. Knowing the differences in potential causes may help you determine if your pup needs to be seen by a veterinarian.

How Do Dogs Lose Their Voice?

When discussing a dog losing their voice, we usually mean either there is reduced vocalization (the dog is more quiet or hoarse) or that the pitch of their vocalization has changed (the bark sounds higher or lower than usual).

A dog’s larynx, which is part of the upper airway, is a complex structure with many important components. The larynx plays an important role in how a dog’s voice sounds, and it’s also responsible for ensuring food and air travel down the right tubes safely.

Like us, dogs have vocal folds in their larynx. Damage to, irritation of, or a change in the function of the anatomical structures within the larynx can lead to changes in a dog’s voice.

While dogs don’t completely lose their voice very often, vocal changes are common due to a variety of potential causes.

7 Ways a Dog Can Lose Their Voice

Dogs can lose their voice due to:

  • Traumatic injury to the throat. Dogs can suffer a traumatic throat injury if they are hit by a car, bitten in the throat by another animal, or if they are pulled too hard on a choke chain. These injuries can all cause damage to the structures within the larynx and may cause swelling of the laryngeal tissues.

  • Abscesses in the throat, tonsils, or larynx. Dogs with abscesses will usually feel quite lethargic and have a poor appetite. Abscesses are painful, red, and swollen (inflamed). Abscesses in the larynx, tonsils, or throat are difficult for pet parents to notice unless a draining tract appears through the skin.

Otherwise, an abscess within the throat would likely need to be identified by a veterinarian while the dog is sedated. The inflammation caused by an abscess, as well as how it alters the structure of the larynx, contributes to vocal changes.

  • Laryngeal edema (fluid buildup in the tissues of the larynx). Repetitive barking is a potential cause of laryngeal edema. Additionally, dogs that are having acute allergic reactions or anaphylaxis due to insect bites, vaccinations, or medications may develop severe laryngeal edema.

Allergic reactions can change the sound of the voice, but some reactions can be life-threatening, inhibiting the dog’s ability to breathe. If you think your dog is having a medical emergency, contact your veterinarian or an emergency vet immediately.

  • Laryngitis. Inflammation of the larynx can occur due to upper respiratory infections, such as kennel cough. Some autoimmune conditions, such as  systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), may also cause inflammation within the larynx. Inhaled or oral irritants, such as smoke, can cause laryngitis as well.

    • Similarly, gastroesophageal reflux or acid reflex can cause laryngitis, as the stomach acid can irritate the larynx. Dogs with laryngitis will often have a cough along with their voice change.

  • Tumors growing in the larynx. Masses growing in the larynx can be benign, like a polyp. However, these masses may also be malignant (potential to spread to other parts of the body), such as mast cell tumors, squamous cell carcinoma, or lymphoma.

  • Laryngeal paralysis. Laryngeal paralysis occurs due to dysfunction of a specific nerve involved in the function of the larynx. With this condition, the airway doesn’t properly open during breathing and doesn’t properly close during swallowing. This can obstruct the airway, making breathing more difficult, especially during exercise. 

  • Neuromuscular diseases. An example of a neuromuscular disease, which may cause changes to the voice in dogs, is myasthenia gravis, a condition where dogs develop muscle weakness. A lot of these conditions don’t start with changes to a dog’s bark, but eventually, this weakness can affect the nerves and muscles of the larynx and vocal cords.

When to Contact Your Vet About Dog Voice Loss

If your dog has been barking excessively and sounds a little hoarse, wait a few days to make sure they recover as long as they don’t have any other symptoms.

Call your veterinarian if you’re noticing other signs such as coughing, discharge from the eyes or nose, if your dog seems less interested in exercise, or if you’re noticing a change in the dog’s voice over time.

An emergency trip to the veterinarian is necessary if your pet is having a sudden allergic reaction or is having difficulty breathing.

Can Dogs Lose Their Voice from Barking Too Much?

Yes, a dog can lose their voice from barking too much. Repeated barking can lead to overuse of the vocal folds, causing the tissues to swell with excessive fluid. This is called laryngeal edema. Because of the swelling to the laryngeal tissues, the dog’s voice may sound hoarse.

Dog Voice Loss FAQs

Do dogs get their voices back after voice loss?

Dogs often get their voice back after voice loss, particularly if they’ve lost their voice due to barking too much or an upper respiratory infection. However, some causes such as laryngeal paralysis or a throat injury may permanently change how the dog’s bark sounds.

Can dogs lose their voice from crying?

Whining too much can lead to voice loss, just like barking too much can lead to voice loss in dogs.

Featured Image: Getty/AzmanJaka

Rhiannon Koehler, DVM


Rhiannon Koehler, DVM


Dr. Rhiannon Koehler is a veterinarian and freelance medical writer. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Master of Public...

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