Dog Manual

Painful Swallowing

When a dog eats its food cautiously and seems to swallow with difficulty, the likelihood is that it is affected either by a sore throat or by tonsillitis. If it is nothing more than a sore throat, it will usually go away by itself in a few days. Swabbing the throat two or three times a day with a household antiseptic, such as tincture of metaphen, will be of assitance in overcoming the ailment more rapidly. However, if the symptoms persist or are accompanied by loss of appetite, depression, and high temperature, there is a strong possibility of tonsillitis.


The tonsils are rodlike structures which lie in small grooves on either side of the back of the mouth. An inflammation of these structures is called tonsillitis. The inflammation may be either acute or chronic. The acute form responds readily to simple medical treatment. The chronic form is often resistant to medical treatment, and requires surgical removal of the tonsils for the permanent elimination of the condition. Tonsillitis does not appear too frequently in dogs, though the Boston Terrier seems to have a special predilection for it.

Improper hygienic surroundings will predispose the animal to tonsillitis. The ailment may also be caused by infection or various mechanical or chemical irritants. It may occur as an incidental complication of numerous infectious diseases.

In the acute form, the animal swallows with difficulty and may vomit occasionally. The head may be extended, and manipulation over the throat region may elicit a response of pain. The tonsils themselves may appear red and congested, and exude a discharge of pus-like character. When the attack is mild, the only symptoms may be that the dog eats its food slowly and swallows with caution.

In severe attacks, there may be complete lack of appetite, depression, and fever.

The chronic form of tonsillitis is characterized by slow eating, cautious swallowing, and occasional vomiting, but the animal may appear normal in every other respect The tonsils themselves are hard, gray, swollen, and insensitive to pain stimuli.

The treatment of acute tonsillitis consists in removing the cause, and in applying antiseptic and alleviatory measures to the inflamed tonsils. Various germ-killing agents, such as penicillin or aureomycin, may be used either in tablet or injectable form. As stated above, chronic tonsillitis does not respond readily to routine treatment and surgery is the best alternative.