Dog Mutilation - Cordectomy for Devocalization

14 September, 2020
Up until not too long ago, people performed all sorts of dog mutilation surgeries and had no qualms about it. Ear cropping, tail docking, or cordectomy for devocalization are just a few examples. The good news is that these practices are now illegal. The bad news, people continue to perform them illegally.

We’ve evolved a lot in matters of animal abuse and welfare as a society as a whole. This is because up until recently, people still believed that dog mutilation (docking their tails, cropping their ears, performing a cordectomy for vocalization) was a necessary practice. Fortunately, there’s a reversal of this trend and this type of intervention is now illegal — with exceptions. (We’ll explain this nuance below.)

Of all the morally wrong procedures, this article will focus on a cordectomy, a type of surgery.

Dog mutilation – devocalization

This intervention consists of the surgical removal of the tissue of a dog’s vocal cords in order to keep them from howling and barking, among others. This practice is currently illegal in many countries.

Some reforms consider several aspects related to the welfare of companion animals and the activity of the veterinary clinic. One of their points is mutilation as common practice.

However, they established exceptions. That is, the purpose of any mutilation must be therapeutic or health-restoring. In the event that an owner requests or suggests a cordectomy, the response must be:

  • Firstly, the veterinarian must thoroughly evaluate the need for such intervention, and consider whether this need corresponds to strictly medical criteria, such as tumors or infections
  • Secondly, the practice is strictly forbidden when there’s no medical justification for it, and ignoring this fact is a crime

However, a vet must perform a cordectomy if an animal’s well-being is at stake. The doctor must carry it out placing the animal under general anesthesia. Also, they must provide proper sanitary guarantees.

A dog licking their chops after undergoing mutilation.

Cordectomy is a form of dog mutilation

Unfortunately, the intention of most of the cordectomies performed was to keep a dog from barking. The need to surgically remove their vocal cords for medical reasons is rare. It’s true that these types of complications can occur, but their incidence is low.

Similarly, many of these interventions are still carried out by people with no medical training. This is outrageous in any type of aesthetic mutilation, but particularly reprehensible in the case of cordectomy. This is because this type of intervention can lead to awful side effects that unnecessarily affect an animal’s well-being.

A necessary reflection

It’s hard to talk about such a controversial subject without getting carried away by one’s own morals and professional ethics. While it’s true that, throughout my career, I’ve witnessed specific cases of people requesting such an intervention, there are better alternatives.

Any vet can understand difficult circumstances. Some dogs are hard to train and others are traumatized and have complex anxiety disorders. Also, there are delicate situations such as complaining neighbors or members of the family nucleus who cannot stand a barking dog.

In any case, there are alternative methods that are way less invasive and don’t lead to bad side effects. It’s never right to humanize animals, but in this case, people must understand the severity of this intervention. Surely our readers would think it outrageous to cut the vocal cords of their children so they don’t cry at night. Well, it’s no different when it comes to non-human animals.

A pug trying to breath.

Final notes

Dogs have a complex communication system that includes vocalizations. Thus, a cordectomy doesn’t only keep them from barking but it also takes away their ability to communicate verbally with those around them. As you can see, it could lead to more serious long-term problems, such as aggression and other types of behavioral problems.

Finally, keep in mind that all veterinarians must ensure the welfare of the animals they treat and their involvement is absolute. I encourage you to go to your veterinarian and discuss all the possible options to solve barking in dogs. You don’t have to resort to this practice if you find yourself in this type of predicament.