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Physiocal characteristics of tonsillitis in a dog, showing lymphoid hyperplasia[1]

Tonsillitis is an umbrella term for any infectious or inflammatory disease of the canine palatine tonsils, which are paired aggregates of lymphoid tissue.

Symptoms are usually associated with caudal oral pain, submandibular lymphadenopathy and secondary fever. Dogs frequently show reluctance to eat despite being hungry, and elicit pain when the mouth is opened. Coughing, dysphagia and yelping while eating are also common signs.

Noninfectious initiators of tonsillitis is common in brachycephalic breeds such as the pug.

Infectious causes of tonsillitis are usually bacterial, but viruses and parasites can also be involved.

Causes of tonsillitis include:

- Streptococcus spp - (esp. β-haemolytic S. canis)
- Staphylococcus aureus
- Mycoplasma pneumoniae
- Chlamydophila pneumoniae
- Bordetella bronchiseptica
- Fusobacterium spp
- Corynebacterium spp
- Listeria spp[3]
- Francisella spp
- Yersinia enterocolitica[4]
- Canine influenza virus
- Canine adenovirus (type 2)[5]
- Canine parainfluenza virus
- Canine respiratory coronavirus[6]
- Canine distemper virus
- Spirocerca lupi
  • Miscellaneous
- Tonsillar lymphangiomatous polyp[7]
- Granular cell tumor[8]

Physical examination usually reveals tonsillar enlargement, polyps and characteristic pustules on the tonsils.

Chronic tonsillar lymphoid hyperplasia has been associated with tonsillitis in greyhounds[9].

In most cases, treatment is usually effective with broad-spectrum antimicrobials such as amoxycillin/clavulanate.

In chronic cases, the tonsils are surgically removed. Complications from tonsillectomy can arise due to the effects of tonsil disease on the function of the oropharyngeal regions, surgical dissection in the region or postoperative complication of the insult to tissue[10].


  1. Toa Payoh Vets
  2. Fasanella FJ et al (2010) Brachycephalic airway obstructive syndrome in dogs: 90 cases (1991-2008). J Am Vet Med Assoc 237(9):1048-1051
  3. Läikkö T et al (2004) Canine tonsillitis associated with Listeria monocytogenes. Vet Rec 154(23):732
  4. Murphy BP et al(2010) First report: Yersinia enterocolitica recovered from canine tonsils. Vet Microbiol 146(3-4):336-339
  5. Tham KM et al (1998) Isolation and identification of canine adenovirus type-2 from the upper respiratory tract of a dog. N Z Vet J 46(3):102-105
  6. Mitchell JA et al (2009) Development of a quantitative real-time PCR for the detection of canine respiratory coronavirus. J Virol Methods 155(2):136-142
  7. Miller AD et al (2008) Tonsillar lymphangiomatous polyp in an adult dog. J Comp Pathol 138(4):215-217
  8. Rossi G et al (2007)
  9. Montague AL et al (2002) A study of greyhounds with tonsillar enlargement and a history of poor racing performance. Vet J 164(2):106-115
  10. Dean PW (1991) Surgery of the tonsils. Probl Vet Med 3(2):298-303