I got a call from Grace at Animal Rescue asking me if I would look at a 7 year old Golden Retriever that they had rescued from a shelter. Animal Rrescue takes in so many dogs abnd cats that they provide spays and neuters to all of the pets that they adopt out at their shelter. When they were preparing to spay this dog they injected her anesthetic and proceeded to try to pass an endotracheal tube into her esophagus to provide her the oxygen and anesthetic gas to keep her under general inhalant anesthesia. For the Veterinarian we approximate what size endotracheal tube to use on the pet based on their size, weight, and breed. I have seen some toy breed dogs take a tube used routinely for cats. And I have had to use a tube three sizes smaller than I estimated on a bulldog.
As a side note: There are a lot of helpful anesthesia tips for brachycephalic dogs. I always have a long discussion with these owners prior to placing these guys under sedation or anesthesia. You should expect to pay more and be asking questions if you are not.
In the process of trying to pass the endotracheal tube the Veterinarian noticed that her vocal cords were abnormal. She also noticed that the size of the lumen (the opening of her airway) was significantly smaller than it should have been. As I have said before your body will respond to an insult (fancy medical term for damage) by scarring. Scarring in a tubular structure is called stricture. A stricture causes the tube to narrow. Her vocal cords were unable to open normally, (they open like drapes around a window) because she had been brutally de-barked.
When Grace called to ask me about this dog she was calling to ask if I could use our laser to try to remove the scar tissue that was like a webbing holding her vocal cords together. It is always very difficult to give an opinion on a case over the phone. I need to see a pet and understand not only the condition about which they have come in, for but also assess the pet, and in many cases the owners ability to follow through with any post operative care. I told Grace that I needed to better understand this dog’s condition by seeing her. I also told Grace that I wasn’t sure what she was talking about when she explained to me that she had a 7 year old dog that had been de-barked at the puppy mill. I had never heard of a de-bark being done by anyone other than a veterinarian. (This is a procedure that used to be done pretty routinely in the “old days,” thankfully it has fallen out of fashion). Grace sent me a drawing of the dogs larynx as the Vet had described. She also went on to say that the way puppy mills de-barked was to “shove a pipe down their throat, to break the vocal cords.” I wanted to vomit. I couldn’t believe that people could be so cruel. I also couldn’t believe that I had been doing this for as long as I had and never heard of this. (Something about ignorance being bliss ran through my head). I told her that I was appalled to hear about this girl but I would be happy to see her.
Thankfully she did well under anesthesia and recovered without any problems. It was decided that based on her age, her lack of clinical signs and how well she seemed to be doing that we would take a “watch and wait and see” approach.
My hope is that she will never need another surgery and that she will be with a family that loves her. She may have started out with a terrible cruel person who didn’t care about her, but hopefully she will end up with the exact opposite.
Puppy mills only stay in business because there are people willing to buy a pet from them. If you don’t know the breeder and you haven’t met and visited their facility personally please don’t support them by buying a pet from them. They will only stop abusing when there isn’t someone buying their product.
There is not much information available on de barking, but here is an interesting debate;