I did not realize that dogs have tonsillitis like children. Is it common?
Since dogs have tonsils, they also have tonsillitis. It is quite common particularly
in small breeds of dogs. It is much less common in large dogs.
What are the tonsils, and what do they do?
The tonsils are much like lymph nodes (lymph glands). There are two of them,
and they are located at each side of the back of the throat. When they are normal,
they are not easily seen because they reside in crypts (pouches). Like lymph
nodes, their job is to fight infection. When they are doing this, they often
become infected themselves and will enlarge. Swollen, red tonsils that are out
of their crypts are easily seen in the back of the throat if the dog will permit
its mouth to be opened widely.
How did my dog get tonsillitis?
There are certain conditions known to cause tonsillitis. Chronic vomiting,
a chronic productive cough, and chronic disease in the mouth will allow bacteria
to infect the tonsils. The main cause of chronic disease in the mouth is tartar
on the teeth and the infections that are associated with it. Occasionally, primary
tonsillitis (no underlying cause) will occur; this is almost always in small
breeds of dogs.
What are the clinical signs of a dog with tonsillitis?
When the tonsils enlarge, they are usually quite painful. This causes the
dog to gag, as if something is in the throat, or to make exaggerated swallowing
motions. Some dogs appear to be licking their lips repeatedly. Most affected
dogs are reluctant to eat because of the pain associated with swallowing. They
may be hungry and go to the food bowl but refuse to eat. Many dogs with tonsillitis
are not as active as normal, but they usually do not have a raised temperature.
This is the one characteristic that differs markedly from people with tonsillitis.
How is tonsillitis treated?
If an underlying source of the infection can be found, it must be treated.
Antibiotics are given for 2-3 weeks in an effort to rid the tonsils of infection
and to treat any other infection that may be present. If the teeth are tartar-laden
and infected, they should be cleaned.
What about a tonsillectomy?
That is not the first approach to treatment, but it can sometimes become necessary
if there is poor response to treatment or if tonsillitis becomes a recurring
condition. This is more likely to happen in small breeds of dogs.
Is this contagious to other dogs or to humans?
Most cases of tonsillitis are caused by bacteria that normally are found in
the mouth of dogs and humans. Therefore, it is not contagious unless it is caused
by an unusual bacterium.
Can a Streptococcal throat be associated with dogs?
Streptococcus pyogenes, the cause of "strep throat" in humans does not cause
tonsillitis in dogs or cats. However, dogs and cats can acquire a transient
infection with this bacterium when they are in contact with a human with a streptococcal
throat infection. Although they do not get the infection, they may harbor the
bacterium and pass it on to other people. Therefore, it is suggested that dogs
be treated when family members have streptococcal throat infection, especially
if recurring infections occur in the household.
to Canine Information Index