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Pet Owner Version

Pharyngitis in Dogs


Jan F. Hawkins

, DVM, DACVS, Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Purdue University

Reviewed/Revised Jun 2018 | Modified Oct 2022

Pharyngitis is inflammation of the walls of the throat (pharynx). It accompanies most upper airway viral and bacterial respiratory infections, such as distemper in dogs. Other causes include damage of the pharynx by a foreign object or cancer of the mouth or tonsils. In dogs, foreign objects stuck in the mouth and throat are quite common; typical objects include pins, needles, porcupine quills, and pieces of stick or bone fragments.

In general, animals with pharyngitis have a normal desire to eat and drink but may have difficulty swallowing. As a result of inflammation and abscesses, an emergency situation can develop if the airway becomes obstructed. The diagnosis is based on a complete physical examination, which may include x-rays and endoscopic examination of the throat along with cultures of fluids and sites that are draining.

The primary treatment is to identify and control or eliminate the factors leading to the disease. If pharyngitis has been caused by a foreign object, surgery to remove the object and any dead tissue is done under general anesthesia. Antibiotics may be necessary if pharyngitis is caused by an infection. Anti-inflammatory treatments are also often used. If an abscess is present, it may need to be drained and flushed.

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