MSD Manual

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Pet Owner Version

Tonsillitis in Cats


Ned F. Kuehn

, DVM, MS, DACVIM, Michigan Veterinary Specialists

Reviewed/Revised Aug 2018 | Modified Oct 2022

Tonsillitis is inflammation of the tonsils and is rare in cats. When seen, it is usually caused by another underlying condition (such as a nose, mouth, or throat condition; or longterm coughing or vomiting). Plant fibers or other foreign bodies that lodge in a tonsil may produce inflammation or infection. Other physical and chemical agents may cause irritation of the mouth and upper throat and one or both tonsils. Tonsillitis may also accompany tumors in the tonsil because of physical trauma or bacterial infection that enters the diseased tonsil.

Tonsillitis sometimes does not cause any signs, but coughing may be seen. When severe, it can cause poor appetite, listlessness, salivation, and difficulty swallowing.

If a bacterial infection is the cause, appropriate antibiotics provide effective treatment. Pain relievers are sometimes given for severe irritation, and a soft, palatable diet is recommended for a few days until the difficulty swallowing resolves. Cats that are not eating may require subcutaneous (under the skin) or intravenous (into the vein) fluid administration. Most cases of tonsillitis do not require removal of the tonsils.

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