Dog: Tonsillitis

General information

Other common/scientific names: pharyngitis

Tonsillitis is inflammation of the tonsils. Dogs have two tonsils which are small masses of lymphoid tissue located on each side of the throat. They are found within a fold of tissue known as the tonsillar crypt. The tonsils are an important part of the immune system because they help protect the body from bacteria, viruses and other foreign material.


Plant fibers and other foreign bodies can cause tonsillitis by lodging in the crypt. However, tonsillitis is usually associated with another disease. Bacterial (kennel cough) and viral (distemper) respiratory infections are common causes especially in young dogs. Other causes include chronic vomiting, chronic coughing and severe periodontal disease. Some cancers can cause tonsillitis.

Cardinal symptom

Difficulty swallowing


Most cases of tonsillitis are mild and may go unnoticed. Difficulty swallowing and repeated swallowing attempts may be seen. The tonsils are swollen and reddened. In severe cases, retching, coughing, depression and fever are seen.


Diagnosis of tonsillitis is made on physical examination of the throat.


The treatment of tonsillitis is aimed at treating the underlying disease. Once this is resolved, the tonsils usually return to normal. Severe cases may be treated with antibiotics. While rare, recurring cases may require surgical removal of the tonsils.


Tonsillitis is seldom a serious condition and the prognosis is good providing the causing condition is identified. If secondary to a serious disease, the prognosis is poorer.


Tonsillitis is not preventable but keeping your dog dewormed for endoparasites and vaccinated for preventable disease will keep your dog’s immune system strong and healthy. Click here for more information on canine vaccinations.

Update version: 4/24/2014, © Copyright by
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