Breeders and pet stores don't always disclose devocalization of the dogs and cats they sell. Shelters that take in cast-off animals may not know. Here's why you MUST find out if your new pet's voice was surgically altered.
Devocalized dogs and cats may be hoarse or shrill. Some just sound odd, even whistle. Many, but not all, cough and gag persistently or have difficulty swallowing. Others experience labored breathing especially at play. So was your new pet subjected to voice-altering surgery?
It's important to find out. Now.
1) If your pet's voice was surgically altered, he or she may require veterinary treatment and/or special home care to ease discomfort--or prevent a terrible death. For example, you may need to water down food to reduce the risk of choking or carefully monitor exercise to prevent heatstroke, even when it's not hot.
These risks are present regardless of who performed the surgery, the instrument used, the amount of tissue cut and the surgical route--through the animal's open mouth or an incision in the neck. There is NO benign way to alter an animal's voice!
2) If you bought a dog or cat in Massachusetts, and the seller--NOT a 501(c)(3) shelter or rescue group--didn't disclose that the animal's voice had been surgically altered, you could receive financial compensation.
Thanks to the state's landmark devocalization ban, you can take your case to court. If you win, you could be awarded triple the amount of devocalization-related expenses you incurred caring for your pet. These expenses, such as surgery to remove scar tissue from your pet's airway, can be substantial.
"I thought my dog had kennel cough when I adopted him. I never imagined the reason for his coughing was that someone had their vet notch his vocal cords to change his voice." Sue P.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR Here are signs that could indicate your pet had vocal cord surgery, according to board-certified veterinary surgeon Joel M. Woolfson, DVM, DACVS:
The bark or meow sounds hoarse or muted, gurgly, shrill, like a whistle or otherwise strange.
Some animals may stop vocalizing or bark or meow only occasionally if they suffer painful chronic inflammation as a result of vocal cord surgery.
Your pet frequently gags or coughs, clears his or her throat or has noisy breathing sounds when he or she pants.
Your pet exhibits raspy or distressed breathing when exercised or at play.
Have your dog or cat checked by a veterinarian if you notice one or more of these signs. The vet may recommend sedation for examination of the larynx. Scarred, misshapen or damaged vocal folds are among the indications of a prior surgery, whether through the animal’s open mouth or an incision in the neck.
Unless it was performed to alleviate a PHYSICAL ailment, your pet was devocalized.
The above information does not substitute for examination by a qualified veterinarian.
Joel Woolfson, DVM, DACVS, is a board-certified veterinary surgeon, highly respected by his peers for his expertise and beloved by his patients, their families and rescuers for his exceptional compassion. Dr. Woolfson has extensive experience in soft tissue and orthopedic surgical procedures. He has had the unfortunate experience of treating patients who suffered terrible consequences of voice-altering surgery.