Your dog’s bark is their main method of communication. They use it to say many things. They may bark when there’s an intruder in the yard, or whine to let you know they are hungry or sad.
You are well aware of many things your dog’s bark can tell you, but you may not have considered the pitch of your dog’s bark. A change in your dog’s pitch, tone, or volume can indicate a serious health problem.
Why is my dog’s bark suddenly high-pitched?
Your dog normally has a deep bark, but it suddenly becomes much higher-pitched. In most cases, a dog’s voice will become lower pitched or hoarse. However, there are a few reasons why your dog’s bark might become high-pitched.
How Dogs Bark
Before we get into why your dog’s bark is changing, it’s important to know how they bark in the first place. Your dog can’t speak the way humans can, but their anatomy is very similar to your own when it comes to vocalizations.
The sound comes from the larynx, commonly called the voice box. This organ is in front of the trachea and esophagus. It is made of cartilage and soft tissue, with an opening in the middle. It plays a role in swallowing and breathing, in addition to vocalizations.
When your dog needs to breathe, the muscles in the larynx allow it to open. Breath travels through the larynx, into the trachea, and then into the lungs.
When they swallow, the muscles contract and close the larynx. Food goes into the esophagus, instead of the lungs.
The larynx also houses the vocal cords. When your dog wants to make a sound, they will use outward breathe to vibrate these cords, creating the noise. Humans use this same process to speak.
Laryngeal paralysis will typically make your dog’s bark hoarse or lower pitched. However, it can also cause a whistling sound. This is because the muscles of the larynx become weak or collapse. This obstructs the airway, creating a whistling sound.
Loneliness or Excitement
Your dog’s bark will change based on its mood. You may notice that your dog will have a high pitched bark when they are excited or want to play.
However, dogs will also have a high pitched bark when they are lonely. If you see your dog looking sad and barking with a high pitched voice, they probably need some TLC. It’s their way of asking for companionship. They may whine or howl if they are lonely, which are also high pitched.
Why is my dog’s bark suddenly low-pitched?
It can be a bit startling when your dog’s bark suddenly becomes low-pitched. You’ll naturally wonder what’s going on, and if you should be worried.
Aggression or Fear
Just like loneliness can make your dog’s bark high pitched, aggression or fear will prompt a low pitched bark or growl.
A low pitched bark can indicate that the dog is very scared or is ready to attack. It’s their warning. They are typically confident. However, they can also have a low bark when they are very scared. In either case, it’s a way to tell another animal or person to back off, before they get hurt.
You are probably familiar with human signs of puberty. One of the most noticeable is a change in the pitch of the voice. Their voice will drop to a lower pitch and become deeper as they reach sexual maturity.
You may be surprised to know this also occurs in dogs, particularly males. This is because the larynx gets bigger, and the vocal cords become thicker.
Old age can also affect your dog’s voice. As they get older, the nerves in the vocal cords and larynx degrade. This can change the pitch and volume of their bark.
If you notice that it occurs over time in a senior dog, old age is a likely culprit.
Why is my dog’s bark hoarse?
Hoarseness is the most common issue with a dog’s bark. This may be accompanied by a change in pitch as well. There are several reasons your dog’s bark may become hoarse.
Excessive barking can strain the vocal cords, causing your dog’s bark to be hoarse. Have you ever strained your voice? Perhaps you were at a concert or sporting event, screaming and cheering. This can also occur when you are sick, and have a harsh cough.
You’ll notice your voice is hoarse, and the volume is lower. You may even say you’ve lost your voice.
Dogs don’t scream, but they certainly bark. Has your dog ever barked, for what seemed like forever, without a break? Not only did this drive you insane, it was also hard on your dog’s vocal cords. In this case, the barking can temporarily damage the vocal cords, causing hoarseness.
Technically, your dog losing its voice from excessive barking is laryngitis. Laryngitis if often thought of as an infection in the throat, but it actually means inflammation of the larynx.
This can occur for many reasons. Illness is one common cause. Diseases like kennel cough and respiratory infections. These diseases cause an overproduction of mucus. The mucus membranes also swell.
Environmental irritants can also cause laryngitis. Dust, chemicals, and smoke are common irritants. These items can cause the larynx to swell, due to the irritation caused.
Dogs with laryngitis often have a cough. This can be caused by mucus, or the pressure from the swollen larynx. In addition to a hoarse bark, you may notice your dog wheezing or struggling to breathe.
Laryngeal paralysis is also known as LP or Lar Par. It causes the muscles that control the larynx to paralyze, or become unable to move. It often starts with one side of the larynx, and often affects both sides over time.
The early stages cause a hoarse bark, and can also cause a whistling sound because the larynx isn’t fully open. Over time, it can interfere with their breathing severely. If all the muscles paralyze, surgery is needed to prevent death.
Laryngeal paralysis is more common in brachiatric breeds, like pugs and bulldogs. Senior dogs are also at a higher risk of developing the condition.
Gastrointestinal disease can also cause a hoarse bark. Have you ever had heartburn or a stomach bug, and found it made your throat sore? Perhaps your voice was even hoarse for a few days afterward.
This can also occur with your dog. The acid from acid reflux can irritate the larynx, causing it to swell. Vomitting can strain the vocal cords, and irritate the larynx.
Cancer is a terrifying prospect, but one both humans and dogs sometimes have to face. Cancer of the throat will cause tumors, which will affect your dog’s voice. Other types of cancer can also spread to the throat, affecting your dog’s voice.
Tracheal Collapse or Obstruction
Tracheal collapse occurs when the trachea, which allows breath to travel from the mouth to the lungs, collapses. This can occur naturally, or due to throat trauma. The bands of cartilage that open the airway become weak or damaged. This can cause the trachea to collapse in on itself, preventing air from getting through.
Mild tracheal collapse can cause wheezing and hoarseness. However, severe tracheal collapse can be life threatening. Any suspected tracheal collapse should be evaluated by your veterinarian.
An obstruction means that a foreign object is blocking the airway. This can cause hoarseness, whistling, wheezing, and lower volume.
If the obstruction is visible, you can attempt to remove it yourself. After removal, or if removal isn’t possible, your pooch needs immediate veterinary care.
Dogs can develop hypothyroidism, just as humans can. The thyroid controls metabolism. When it is under active, it causes fatigue, skin problems, weight gain, and voice changes.
The easiest way to understand hypothyroidism is to imagine a car. Have you ever put bad gas into your vehicle, or ran it until it was nearly out of gas?
In either case, the vehicle didn’t run right. It wouldn’t reach its usual speed. Acceleration was slower. This occurs because the engine doesn’t have enough fuel.
Your dog’s body functions in the same way. Food must be converted to fuel for the body. Hypothyroidism stops the body from providing enough fuel to keep your dog’s body functioning properly.
If your dog has hypothyroidism, your dog’s bark may become hoarse. You may also notice it lessens in volume. Other symptoms include fatigue, weight gain, and skin problems.
What to do if my dog’s bark changes pitch?
Your dog greets you at the door as usual, but their bark sounds different? What should you do?
Assess the Situation
First, you’ll need to assess the situation. Listen closely to your dog’s bark. How has it changed? Is it lower in pitch, or higher? Are they hoarse? Are they having a hard time breathing? Do you hear wheezing? Has their voice changed volume as well?
Consider the Seriousness
If you hear wheezing, difficulty breathing, or your dog’s bark has dropped significantly in volume, you’ll need to get them to the vet. These are signs that the change in their bark could be caused by a serious medical issue.
You’ll also need to make a vet trip if you notice any signs of illness. Are they sneezing or coughing? Do they have a fever? Are they lethargic? Do they have a fever? Any of these issues, paired with a change in bark, need to be evaluated by your vet.
Lastly, look at their throat. It’s a good idea to check their mouth and throat on the inside, to check for any obstruction. Dogs will sometimes chew or eat things they shouldn’t, and get an object caught in their throat.
You’ll also need to check the outside of their throat. Tumors can cause a change in voice. If you notice any lumps in your dog’s throat, bring them to the vet.
Determine the Cause
If you don’t notice any of the serious symptoms listed above, it’s ok to consider the cause. Were they barking excessively the day before? Are they entering puberty?
Changes to the bark for these reasons do not typically need veterinary care. If your dog barked excessively and strained their voice, take them to the vet if it isn’t better within a day or two.
Helping Your Dog Recover
If your dog has a serious medical condition, they will need veterinary care. However, there are some things you can do at home to soothe your dog’s throat and help them recover, no matter the cause.
It’s important for your dog to rest. Do your best to discourage barking during this time. Remove any triggers that cause your dog to bark, and avoid high-intensity play or excitement.
Plenty of water will also help. The vocal cords need to remain hydrated, which means your dog will need to consume enough water.
Lastly, you can give your dog honey to help soothe their throat. One tablespoon can be given as needed for cough and hoarseness. You can mix the honey with some water, or simply let them lick the honey.