One untreated health problem often leads into the next, both in humans and in pets. When dogs begin to develop symptoms of a certain disease, their owners might be surprised to learn the real issue isn’t what they expected at all. One common example is the link between periodontal disease and tonsillitis.
Here’s what you should know about this throat problem and how it’s connected to tooth decay.
What is tonsillitis?
The tonsils are two oval-shaped pads of tissue located at the back of the throat. They’re responsible for fighting off viruses and bacteria in your dog’s body.
Tonsillitis is a disease that occurs when the tonsils become infected and swollen. Once infected, the tonsils produce several symptoms such as redness, swelling, gagging, licking of the lips and difficulty swallowing.
Tonsillitis can be either primary or secondary. Primary tonsillitis, which has no underlying cause, is rare but is more likely to occur in small breeds. Secondary tonsillitis means chronic disease in the mouth or throat caused the infection. This comes as no surprise, because the tonsils are directly responsible for fighting whatever disease enters the body through the mouth. Most dogs with tonsillitis will experience the secondary form.
Causes of infected tonsils
Tonsillitis may develop when bacteria is introduced to the mouth and throat. It’s important to remember that most of the time, tonsillitis is the result of a larger issue. In order for tonsillitis to clear up, dog owners and a vet must first identify the underlying problem that caused it. A wide range of conditions can lead to oral bacteria like recurring bouts of vomiting or a persistent cough.
However, one of the main causes for tonsillitis in dogs is periodontal disease. This oral health problem results when tartar is left to accumulate on the teeth for too long. Plaque buildup becomes a breeding ground for bad bacteria, and if left untreated, the plaque will eventually lead to a bacterial infection in the gums. This infection is what causes the tonsils to become swollen.
Periodontal disease develops slowly over a long period of time. Dog owners usually aren’t aware of its presence until the obvious symptoms of the disease or tonsillitis start to crop up. By then, periodontal disease would have already caused considerable amounts of damage to your dog’s oral health. Although tonsillitis is easier for owners to detect, the real problem that needs to be addressed is periodontal disease.
How to prevent tonsillitis
Owners can help their dogs avoid tonsillitis by monitoring for signs of infection. Diseases affecting the mouth and throat are of particular concern. Watch out for behaviors that introduce bacteria to the mouth, such as coughing or vomiting. If anything seems out of the ordinary, it’s best to schedule an appointment with your vet. Early diagnosis of chronic diseases is vital for preventing tonsillitis. Once the primary infection is treated, there’s little chance of your dog developing swollen tonsils.
Above all else, avoiding tonsillitis begins with good oral hygiene. Imagine what would happen if you never brushed your teeth. Your mouth would be riddled with cavities! The same holds true for dogs. They require an oral health regimen just as much as their human companions. Our furry friends are susceptible to many of the same dental diseases as us and should receive the same level of attention.
There are a few things you can start doing right away to improve your dog’s oral health. Get in the habit of brushing their teeth at least three times a week, ideally once per day. This will eliminate any plaque that builds up after meals. You can also use dental treats, which scrape plaque off the teeth as your dog chews on it. In addition to at-home dental care, your pup needs annual checkups to make sure their oral health is in top shape.
It’s possible to prevent your dog from contracting tonsillitis by having the tonsils surgically removed. However, vets generally don’t recommend this medical procedure. While dogs and humans can live without tonsils, these organs are necessary for preventing infections. Tonsil removal is only used as a last resort, usually because the dog isn’t responding to other forms of treatment or has recurring instances of tonsillitis.
No dog owner wants to see their poor puppy in pain. While tonsillitis is easy to treat, you’ll be doing your pup a huge favor by preventing the disease in the first place. All it takes are some tasty dental chews, routine brushings and regular checkups with the vet. Monitoring your dog’s oral health is key to stopping infection dead in its tracks and the eventual development of tonsillitis.