Dogs have tonsils like humans do. Dogs with weak immune systems are also prone to tonsillitis since they cannot easily shake off infections. Dogs have one set of tonsils: one tonsil is located on each side of the throat. They are found within a fold of tissue referred to as a tonsillar crypt. The tonsils are part of the lymphatic system. In the normal pet they function to kill germs that enter the body through the mouth. Sometimes the tonsils become chronically infected leading to recurrent sore throats. They can become inflamed, and when they do, it is called tonsillitis.

What are the causes? 

The inflammation can be due to a number of conditions including: 

  • An infection

  • Foreign object lodged in mouth

  • Chronic vomiting

  • Chronic productive coughing

  • Severe dental and gum disease

What are the symptoms? 

As with other throat and mouth irritations, many dogs will be reluctant to eat (especially hard foods such as kibble) and will drool excessively because swallowing is painful. Other dogs with the same condition may swallow repeatedly. Dogs may also retch up white frothy mucus, cough, and act depressed, or have a mucus, jelly-like bowel movement. Depending on the cause, they may also have a fever (a normal adult canine temperature is 100.5-102.5°F). When inflamed, the tonsils become enlarged and red, fold out of the crypts, and are easily visible with the naked eye. Some dogs will chew and ingest foreign objects, such as cloth, in an attempt to soothe throat soreness. In turn, this can lead to severe intestinal problems. In severe cases they will be seen shaking their head and scratching at their ears in a similar way to dogs with ear infections.

What are the risks? 

As in humans, tonsillitis is seldom serious; however, it can be chronic and annoying.

What is the management? 

In treating tonsillitis, we need to first find out what is causing the tonsillitis and then treat this underlying cause. For instance, we may need to determine what is causing the chronic vomiting or coughing. The throat would be examined for the presence of a foreign object, such as a stick, which could be lodged in the throat and cause inflammation of the tonsils. In these instances, the foreign object would be removed and the animal placed on antibiotics. If dental disease is the problem, a professional dental cleaning and other procedures may be necessary, along with antibiotics. Only in severe chronic tonsillitis of unknown origin should the tonsils be removed. The canine tonsils are lymphoid tissue and therefore, are important in fighting diseases. Whenever possible, they should be left intact.

It is about 10 degrees colder on the floor of your house than at eye level. This means if you keep the thermostat set at 68 degrees in the house, it’s probably about 58 degrees on the floor. If the dog goes out and becomes damp on its feet or abdomen, this may cause chilling, when it is brought back into the house. You might also consider a sweater for the dog for wintertime trips outside the house.

The opposite occurs many times in the summer months with the dog getting hot outside, and then being chilled in the house with air conditioning.
The mouth of dogs and cats normally contains many types of bacteria. These bacteria do NOT cause any problem, until the pet is stressed in some way, allowing the bacteria to multiply. Since most cases of tonsillitis in dogs are bacterial (usually streptococcus), antibiotics are routinely used in treatment.

Human sore throats are usually caused by a virus, and therefore antibiotics are not often used. Many cases of recurring tonsillitis are due to a persistent bacterial infection in the tonsil area. Many of these cases require a tonsillectomy to solve the problem. Since the tonsils in a “normal” animal help fight disease, we do NOT recommend removal, except in chronic cases which seem to flare up several times a year. Tonsillitis may spread among your pets, and occasionally to man, but this is not generally a problem.

The main aim of treatment is to identify and eliminate the underlying problem. A broad spectrum course of antibiotics for 5 - 7 days usually cures the problem. However, when the antibiotics have no effect or are only transiently curative, or when the enlarged tonsils interfere with swallowing or oxygen intake when the dog is exercised, a tonsillectomy (ie removal of tonsils) is the best form of treatment. Once removed dogs are often successfully back in racing in approximately 6 -8 weeks with no obvious side effects.

NOTE: Prolonged antibiotic use or frequent changes in antibiotics promote bacterial resistance and MUST be avoided.
TIP:  For dogs suffering from Tonsillitis, try putting one drop of Lugols Iodine in about 250mls of milk, and feeding that every day to the dog for 7-10 days. 


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