Ventriculocordectomy (Devocalization) of Dogs

February 22, 2022

The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) opposes non-therapeutic “devocalization” of dogs.


The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) opposes non-therapeutic ventriculocordectomy (devocalization) of dogs.


  • Non-therapeutic ventriculocordectomy (devocalization) is a surgical procedure intended to permanently reduce unwanted barking.
  • Serious health and welfare consequences can result from devocalization.
  • Barking is a normal canine behaviour and an important means of communication.
  • Devocalization does not address the underlying reason for the unwanted barking.


  1. Non-therapeutic ventriculocordectomy (devocalization) in dogs (sometimes referred to as debarking, bark softening, surgical silencing, or devoicing) is a surgical procedure in which the vocal cords are fully or partially removed to prevent or reduce the volume, pitch, and intensity of a dog’s bark.
  2. Therapeutic ventriculocordectomy in dogs may be undertaken for valid reasons such as airway obstruction, laryngeal paralysis or cancer (1).
  3. Serious health and/or animal welfare consequences can result from devocalization including:
    1. inherent risks and related mortality associated with general anesthesia;
    2. post-operative pain and discomfort;
    3. short term post-operative complications such as bleeding, swelling, infection, coughing, and gagging (1,2);
    4. long term complications such as aspiration pneumonia, stridor (noisy breathing), respiratory distress, airway stenosis (narrowing) and scarring, that can lead to exercise intolerance, heat intolerance and collapse (2-4).
  4. Resumption of a near-normal bark can occur within months following a non-therapeutic devocalization procedure thereby negating any perceived benefits (2).
  5. Due to animal welfare concerns, non-therapeutic devocalization is prohibited in a number of jurisdictions including the United Kingdom, the European Union, several American states, New Zealand and Australia (in certain circumstances) and the province of Alberta (5-9).
  6. Barking is a normal canine behaviour used as a means of communication in activities such as playing, greeting, alerting/protection, and issuing warnings. It has been suggested that barking may have evolved to include interspecies communication from the dog to humans rather than just intra-species communication (10-12). Excessive barking in dogs can arise for multiple reasons such as boredom, lack of socialization, social isolation, attention seeking, as a response to external stimuli (e.g. other dogs barking) and behaviour problems (e.g. separation anxiety) (10, 12, 13).
  7. The key to controlling undesirable barking is to understand and treat the underlying cause. Devocalization of a dog as a solution to unwanted barking behaviour without treating the underlying cause commonly results in unacceptable alternative behaviours induced by fear or anxiety (10).

    A veterinarian experienced in behaviour modification should be consulted in conjunction with a certified trainer to determine the underlying cause(s) and recommend a treatment program to mitigate excessive barking. If behavioural pharmacology (i.e. administration of drugs) is indicated as an adjunct to behavioural modification, as might be the case with separation anxiety-induced excessive vocalization, a qualified veterinarian must be consulted.

    Environmental solutions may include installing visual barriers in yards, soundproofing in large kennels, automatic food dispensers, or dog appeasing pheromone (10, 13, 14).

  8. Excessive barking caused by anxiety is not effectively corrected using aversive training methods (e.g. use of electronic collars) as they can further increase anxiety (12, 13).


  1. Zikes C, McCarthy T. Bilateral ventriculocordectomy via ventral laryngotomy for idiopathic laryngeal paralysis in 88 dogs. J Am Anim Hosp Assoc 2012;48:234-244.
  2. Fossum TW. Surgery of the upper respiratory system. Fossum TW, ed. Small Animal Surgery 4th Edition. Mosby Elsevier, 2012;919-921, 923.
  3. Bahr, KL, Howe, L, Jessen, C, Goodrich, Z. Outcome of 45 dogs with laryngeal paralysis treated by unilateral arytenoid lateralization or bilateral ventriculocordectomy. J Am Anim Hosp Assoc 2014; 50:264-272.
  4. Holt D, Harvey C. Glottic stenosis secondary to vocal fold resection: Results of scar removal and corticosteroid treatment in nine dogs. J Am Anim Hosp Assoc 1994;30:396-400.
  5. The Animal Welfare Act (2006). Available from: Last accessed February 2021.
  6. European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals (1992). Available from: Last accessed February 2021.
  7.  American Veterinary Medical Association. State laws governing elective surgical procedures (2019). Available from: Last accessed February 2021.
  8. New Zealand Government. Code of Welfare: Dogs (2018). Available from: Last accessed February 2021.
  9. Queensland Government. Animal Care and Protection Act (2001). Available from: Last accessed February 2021.
  10. Overall KL. Miscellaneous behavioral problems: Emphasis on management. Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals 1997:261-262.
  11. Pongrácz P, Molnár C, Miklósi A. Barking in family dogs: An ethological approach. Vet J 2010;183:141-147. Available from: Barking in family dogs: An ethological approach ( Last accessed February 2021.
  12. Stafford K. Behavioural problems. In: Stafford K, ed. The Welfare of Dogs. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2007:199-213.
  13. Juarbe-Díaz SV. Assessment and treatment of excessive barking in the domestic dog. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 1997;27:515-532.
  14. Protopopova, A, Kisten, D, Wynne, C. Evaluating a humane alternative to the bark collar: Automated differential reinforcement of not barking in a home-alone setting. J Appl Behav Anal 2016; 49(4):735-744.

Additional Reading

  1. CVMA. Position Statement on Elective and Non-Therapeutic Veterinary Procedures for Cosmetic or Competitive Purposes (2019). Available from : Elective and Non-Therapeutic Veterinary Procedures for Cosmetic or Competitive Purposes. Last accessed February 2021.
  2. CVMA. Position statement on Humane Training of Dogs (2021). Available from: Last accessed February 2021.