When the tonsils in the throat become inflamed, it is referred to as tonsillitis. It is often associated with other diseases or abnormalities in the mouth, nose, throat or upper respiratory tract. A congenital abnormality like the cleft palate is an example. Constant irritation from chronic conditions, including coughing due to bronchitis or frequent vomiting resulting from enlargement of esophagus, may lead to tonsillitis. Smaller breeds of dogs are more susceptible to this condition, and dogs that have short noses and flat faces are especially prone to chronic tonsillitis that is associated with upper throat inflammations.
Most cases of tonsillitis in dogs are bacterial in origin. Foreign objects such as pieces of grass or splinters of bone may cause abscesses on the tonsil of only one side, resulting in one-sided tonsillitis. Tumors and lesions in the tonsils resulting from infections or injuries also cause inflammation on one side. Chemical substances, either swallowed or inhaled, may irritate the tonsils as well as the throat and the mouth.
Tonsillitis may be asymptomatic in most cases though the dog may display symptoms such as gagging, and a soft and shallow coughing that brings up a bit of mucus. Increased salivation and frequent retching may be present. Severe inflammation may cause difficulty in swallowing food, and the dog may show lack of appetite and lethargy. Enlarged tonsils may cause obstruction in the throat and the dog may start breathing with a high-pitched noise.
The veterinarian may diagnose tonsillitis on physical examination of the mouth and the throat. A general antibiotic drug may be started immediately. If the response to the medication is poor, a swab from the throat is taken for a culture and sensitivity test to identify the causative organism and the drug well suited to fight it. In severe cases where the dog has difficulty swallowing food, the vet may prescribe analgesics and anti-inflammatory medications and recommend soft, semi-solid food until the condition improves.
Tonsillectomy is rarely needed unless recurrent tonsillitis is severely affecting the physical well being of the dog. Tonsils with tumor growths and enlarged tonsils interfering with breathing may necessitate their surgical removal.