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Tonsillitis

By: PetPlace Veterinarians

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Tonsillitis is the inflammation and enlargement of the tonsils, which are small masses of lymphoid tissue found in close association with the mucous membrane of the throat. Tonsils are an important part of the immune system in that they help protect the body from invading bacteria, viruses or other foreign matter.

Since the tonsils are part of the body's immune system, they can swell in response to illness in other parts of the body. Typically, both tonsils are affected and tonsillitis is more commonly found in dogs than in cats. Repeated vomiting, excessive coughing or disease that results in swallowing difficulties can lead to tonsil inflammation. Even some cancers can also cause tonsillitis. Sometimes, tonsillitis is the only health concern, especially with young small breed dogs. With appropriate treatment, tonsillitis can be a short lived and quickly resolved

What to Watch For

  • Retching
  • Coughing
  • Lethargy
  • Anorexia
  • Fever
  • Headshaking
  • Frequent attempts to swallow or difficulty swallowing

    Diagnosis

    The diagnosis of tonsillitis is based on a recent history consistent with throat irritation as well as examination of the tonsils. With tonsillitis, the tonsils become swollen and inflamed. The tissue is reddened and may contain a small amount of bleeding or infected material. A thorough physical exam looking for other illnesses or diseases is important. Frequently, tonsillitis is not the primary problem.

    Your veterinarian may recommend the following diagnostic tests:

  • Culture to determine bacteria present causing infection
  • Cytology to check for cell structure and diagnosis cancer
  • Radiographs (X-Rays) to determine if foreign material has penetrated the tonsil area (such as bones fragments)

    Treatment

    The treatment of tonsillitis is generally aimed at treating any underlying disease, and once this is resolved, the tonsils usually return to normal. If no underlying disease is detected, antibiotics may be necessary. In few patients, reoccurring episodes of tonsillitis may require surgical removal of the tonsils. This is not a common procedure in dogs and cats and is only done after medical treatment has not been effective.

    Home Care and Prevention

    There is no home care for tonsillitis. If you suspect that your pet is suffering from inflamed tonsils, a veterinary examination is recommended.

    Since tonsillitis is usually associated with other illness or disease, it is very difficult to prevent tonsillitis. Once tonsillitis is diagnosed, appropriate treatment usually resolves the condition.

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