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Canine Tonsillitis

Your dog has a pair of tonsils at the back of its throat that help fight infection. Tonsillitis is when these tonsils are inflamed: swollen, red, and easily seen.


The inflammation is caused by:

  • Dental disease: tartar builds on the teeth, the gums become inflamed, and your dog's tonsils may be affected
  • Any condition in the mouth that allows bacteria to multiply in the throat

Other causes include:

  • Chronic vomiting
  • Chronic productive cough
  • A foreign object stuck in the mouth


Enlarged tonsils are very painful. Signs may include:

  • Gagging
  • Coughing
  • Salivating
  • Licking lips
  • Refusing food (because it is painful to swallow)
  • Listlessness


Your veterinarian will examine your dog's tonsils. If they are inflamed, the veterinarian will see them easily.


Some treatments your veterinarian may recommend:

  • Treating the source of infection: teeth cleaning in the case of dental disease
  • Antibiotics: to treat the infection
  • Anti-inflammatory treatment: to relieve pain
  • Tonsillectomy (removal of the tonsils): if your dog is not responding to treatment or has frequent recurrence. This is rarely done because tonsils are crucial in fighting infections.


The best preventative measure against tonsillitis is to make sure your dog has excellent oral hygiene.


The prognosis depends on the underlying cause, but generally, tonsillitis is not a serious condition. In young dogs, tonsillitis often resolves on its own or with the use of antibiotics.

Medically Reviewed by Sara Ochoa, DVM

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