Ailments of the oral cavity

Tonsillitis (Continued)


Last week, I mentioned the type of tissue that makes up the tonsils. I had also mentioned that in dogs, under normal conditions, one cannot see the tonsils at the back and side of pet cornerthe throat. They are hidden in a fold. Only when there is something wrong (eg an infection) will they protrude, and even that’s not always the case. In fact, tonsillitis is not always accompanied by obvious symptoms.

The clinical signs can range from coughing to a fever and the consequent loss of appetite. But clinical signs, as I said, are not always present.

For example, if the inflammatory process is isolated in the tonsils, then there still may not be a fever (increase in body temperature) present. If the infection of the tonsils is the result of a general infection of the animal’s body, then fever will manifest itself.

Let’s list the symptoms of tonsillitis:

  • Making an attempt as if to dislodge something that might be stuck in the animal’s throat (of course, there is no foreign body stuck in the throat);
  • Actual vomiting;
  • A short sporadic, soft cough;
  • A small amount of phlegm might be coughed up and discharged;
  • Loss of appetite (the dog wants to eat, shows signs of hunger, but the pain and soreness dissuades the dog from taking up food and swallowing);
  • Lethargy (listlessness);
  • Increased salivation (drooling).

Once the symptoms exhibit themselves (solely or collectively), one should pry open the dog’s mouth and look for the tonsils at the back and side of throat. They might be peeping out (or even overflowing) of their crypt, red and easily seen.

In severe cases of tonsillitis, one can actually see the tonsils coated with pus. In other cases, one can see pin-head points of necrotic tissue or plaques on the surface of the tonsils.

Finally, it is not uncommon for cancers to develop in dogs’ tonsils (carcinomas, malignant melanomas and lymphosarcomas). But these do not represent a true tonsillitis condition. Also, there are cases where only one tonsil is enlarged and affected.


Every text book will advise on the use of antibiotics. Penicillin is pretty effective in the early stages. My old professor loved to paint ailing tonsils with an iodine solution. Soft (even liquid) foods are a must. The food must never be hot. Actually, I prefer to feed the animal via a drip, just to ease the tonsils from coming in contact with food.

In chronic tonsillitis cases, antibiotics don’t seem to work well. Perhaps your vet will recommend a sensitivity test, so that he/she can determine which exact antibiotic should be used.

My own position is clear as regards recurring tonsillitis cases. For one thing, I don’t believe that an adequate amount of antibiotic can get into the lymph tissue of the tonsils. Also, one can never be sure (unless a piece of the tonsil is cut out for histo-pathological analysis) that we are dealing with a cancer. So why wait? I recommend the surgical removal of the tonsils in all such recurring cases. Of course, I don’t even think twice about excising the tonsils, if they are so swollen that they are blocking the air flow, especially in the short-faced breeds like the Pekingese.

Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals.  Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead. If you do not wish your pet to have puppies or kittens, you may exploit the GSPCA’s free spay and neutering programme. If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237.

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