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Controversial 'Debarking' Not Music To Ears Of Veterinarians

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) - You hear a dog bark long and loud enough and it can drive you to drink. But going under the knife to solve a bark problem?

Some dog owners are doing it with a procedure called debarking.  A vet cuts the dog's vocal chords to muffle the bark.

Rockwall resident Jodi's dog was already debarked when she adopted Kiwi from the animal shelter.  "It just sounds painful when she tries to bark," Jodi said.

While it's not known why Kiwi was debarked, many do it for convenience.

But Dr. Mark Stickney with Texas A&M says the procedure should only be done as a last resort.  "It is normal for a dog to bark. They're supposed to bark," says Stickney. "If you are in a position where that animal has to be given up or is going to have to be euthanized, then certainly debarking is a better alternative."

Of the more than 78 million dogs owned in the United States, the American Veterinary Medical Association says less than seven percent are evaluated for excessive barking.

While it's not known how many devocalization procedures are performed in the U.S. each year, the AVMA says the number is small.

Dr. Stickney says debarking won't address the root cause of excessive barking, which could be an environmental or a behavioral issue.

Surgery often doesn't solve the problem.  "What we will see in over half of these dogs in a few months after the procedure, they are barking almost normally again," says Dr. Stickney.

In fact, it can do damage to your dog.

Dr. Stickney says scar tissue can build and narrow the dog's airwaves and make it difficult to breathe.

Only 4 states – Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Ohio – have laws banning debarking in certain circumstances.

In a statement on its website, the AVMA says "canine devocalization should on by performed by qualified, licensed veterinarians as a final alternative to euthanasia."

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