December 4


Do Dogs Have Tonsils?

Do Dogs Have Tonsils?

Dogs have two tonsils on each side of their throat that are similar to lymph nodes. These lymph nodes are each contained in a small pouch called a crypt. The primary function of these lymph nodes or tonsils is to help fight infection. Should the tonsils become infected, they will become inflamed and visible outside the pouch on each side of the dog's throat. A healthy tonsil will not be visible in the crypt. 

How Do You Know If Your Dog Has Tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis in dogs is considered a rare condition that is mostly identified in small breeds, occasionally in puppies and dogs with flat faces and a short nose (brachycephalic dogs) like pugs, bulldogs (English and French) and Pekinese. If a dog develops tonsilitis, it is more than likely suffering from an underlying medical issue, as it does not usually occur in isolation in adult dogs. 

The most common underlying cause for tonsillitis in dogs can be tartar buildup (periodontal disease), mouth ulcers, or an infected tooth. At times, an infection from somewhere else can enter the mouth and cause an infection. 

This may be true, particularly if the dog has been licking its anal area. Check the dog's anal area to ensure it is not infected in any way by a sharp object passing or injury. If the dog has been continuously licking itself, it may also be a sign of another underlying issue.

Symptoms of tonsillitis can include lethargy, head shaking, constant gagging. They experience difficulty swallowing and then not eating due to a sore throat. They may also suffer from chronic vomiting or drooling and, in some cases, a higher than average temperature. Fever, however, is not always present.

If you have a dog that loves to chew, check their mouth for any foreign objects, including splinters that may have lodged in their cheeks, tongue, or throat. These foreign objects can cause discomfort and can lodge in the tonsil pouch and make the tonsils inflamed. If not removed, they may also result in infection, causing tonsillitis.

A healthy mouth will ensure that tonsils also remain healthy. With regular tartar removal treatment and teeth check maintenance with your vet every 12 months, you will have a healthy pet and lessen the chance of periodontal disease.

Is Dog Tonsillitis Contagious - Can Dogs Get Strep Throat?

Tonsillitis in dogs is not contagious to humans. 

However, if a person in the household gets strep throat, this is contagious, and the dog may contract strep throat. This virus may then be passed back again from the dog to a human in a cyclic manner. 

Should a family member have strep throat, make sure the dog in the household is also treated with antibiotics to prevent any transferal of the virus. Always consult your veterinarian if you believe your dog has been exposed to a person who has strep throat.

Can Dogs Have Tonsil Stones?

The tonsils of dogs act like lymph nodes and are contained in two small pouches on each side of the dog's throat. If bacteria or foreign objects become lodged in the crypts or pouches where the tonsils lymph nodes reside, the foreign objects may solidify and calcify if trapped for an extended period. These calcified objects are known as tonsil stones. Unless these calcified objects are removed they can cause further bacterial infection and may become quite painful. 

Do Cats Have Tonsils?

Cats have four tonsils (lingual, paired palatine tonsil, paired paraepiglottic, and pharyngeal). As with dogs, tonsillitis in cats is rare as a stand-alone condition. Symptoms may be similar to dogs - where it is evident that the nose or throat may be inflamed, or the cat is experiencing difficulty swallowing, coughing, or chronic vomiting. Cats may suffer from coughing due to grooming issues (furballs) - you may wish to consider this when consulting with your vet.  

Any respiratory ailment in cats should be referred to a vet to determine any other underlying cause or possible infection or other medical conditions that may be present.

Do All Animals Have Tonsils?

All domestic animals all have tonsils, except for the rat and pigeon. Sheep and goats have six tonsils (lingual, palatine, paraepiglottic, pharyngeal, and tubal tonsils and the tonsil of the soft palate).

Lingual tonsils are lymphoid tissue located at the base or back of the tongue. Palatine tonsils are present in all species except the pig. They are located dorsally in the lateral walls of the oropharynx. (The part of the throat at the back of the mouth behind the oral cavity). This includes the back third of the tongue, soft palate, and back walls of the throat and tonsils. The paraepiglottic is lymphoid tissue found in the lateral walls between the mouth and the pharynx. 

When any of these tonsils become inflamed or obstructed, infection may set in, and other medical conditions may result. Always consult your vet if your pet appears to have difficulty breathing or eating.

What Are The Tonsils Function?

As with humans, tonsils in animals' primary function is to prevent bacteria and viruses from entering the body. It is nature's way of preventing disease and infection. 

We are encouraged to brush our teeth regularly and visit our dentist annually. Prevention is better than cure. With periodontal disease being the most common reason for tonsillitis in dogs, having our pets, oral hygiene addressed with regular check-ups, and cleaning can prevent disease, and we can make sure our pets are always healthy.

Should Tonsils Be Removed?

Most veterinarians prefer not to remove tonsils from dogs due to the critical function they are there to perform. As with humans, the function of the tonsils is to prevent viruses and bacteria from entering the body. Once removed, this ability to curb disease naturally is also taken away. Only under special circumstances where a dog is constantly plagued by tonsilitis or where another underlying medical condition may be present, they are removed. 

About the author 

Stan Jones

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