A dog looking sick, upset or confused.
A dog looking sick, upset or confused. Photography ©adogslifephoto | Thinkstock.

Dog Warts and All – What to Know

Have you noticed that your dog is developing warts? Find out if they're something to worry about or just a minor condition.
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We know that dogs are susceptible to some of the same ailments that humans are—the common cold and Lyme Disease, just to name a few. But did you know that dogs can also get warts?

“Yes, dogs can get ‘warts,’” Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM, explains. “These are not exactly the same type of warts that people get. This is caused by the papilloma virus and can be easily spread between dogs.”

Dog warts develop from the papilloma or fibropapillomas viruses. While the virus is contagious between dogs, the good news is these skin growths are usually no cause for immediate concern.

“These are benign, not cancerous masses that pop up on the skin,” Ochoa adds. In fact, most of the time, dog warts go away on their own without any medical assistance or treatment. Dogs can develop warts on their arms, feet, between toes, anus or genitals, or if they develop in or around the mouth, then they are considered oral papillomas.

“Papillomas typically develop on the lips, tongue, throat or gums,” explains Dr. Ruth MacPete, veterinarian and author of Lisette the Vet.

Dog warts are usually more common in younger dogs as younger dogs are more susceptible, thanks to their still-developing immune systems.

“Young dogs are more susceptible to the papilloma virus because their immune system is not fully developed,” Dr. MacPete says. “As their immune system matures, they produce antibodies against the virus and the warts can eventually disappear.”

For more on dog warts, how to identify them and treat them, keep reading!

Symptoms

Dog warts usually do not come with any symptoms. In fact, the main key to distinguishing if an abnormal dog skin growth is actually a wart is assessing its appearance.

“Canine oral papillomas are usually asymptomatic,” Dr. MacPete explains.

“There are really no symptoms of warts,” Dr. Ochoa agrees. “They are just very small cauliflower growths on the skin. Usually they do no itch or cause any problems. Some dogs will have them on their arms or feet and when they become bored the dog will bite on the warts causing them to bleed.”

Aside from your dog scratching the warts and causing them to bleed, if the warts become infected, they may be painful. If your dog has oral papillomas, they might cause difficulty or pain while eating. If this is the case, consult your veterinarian immediately.

Diagnosis

Veterinarians usually rely on the papilloma’s characteristic appearance in order to diagnose a wart, but it’s usually a good idea to check that the growth is benign.

“They are round and have an irregular surface, reminiscent of a cauliflower or sea anemone, and usually grow in clusters,” Dr. MacPete says. “Since oral papillomas can occasionally become malignant (cancerous) and other cancers can grow in the mouth, depending on your pet’s age, your veterinarian may suggest getting a biopsy of the lesion to establish a definitive diagnosis.”

According to Dr. Ochoa, performing the biopsy requires a fine needle aspirate to make sure the warts are not cancerous. A thin needle is inserted into the abnormal tissue where it collects a sample, which is then tested for cancer. It is generally a safe procedure without complications and lasts usually 10 minutes. The sample can either be examined under a microscope on site for a quick diagnosis or be sent away for biopsy at a lab.

Treatment 

Some warts need to be surgically removed, but for the most part, these little suckers will resolve on their own. However, Dr. MacPete warns that they might pop up in another area.

“Most cases of canine oral papillomas go away on their own within one to five months as the affected dog’s immune system matures and mounts a response to the virus,” Dr. MacPete. “If the warts are infected, painful or causing a dog to have trouble eating, your veterinarian may recommend the papillomas be surgically excised or treated with cryotherapy (freezing).”

Speaking of surgical removal of warts, Dr. Ochoa says her record was removing 27 warts from the same dog all at once!

Prognosis

In most cases, dog warts will resolve on their own, typically within one to five months. The dog’s immune system matures and learns how to respond to the virus. However, if warts resolve on their own, chances are they might come back in another area.

Some cases of dog warts might require surgical removal. Even still, the prognosis is good and dog owners should not worry, as most dog warts are benign.

Can pet owners prevent dog warts in the first place?

Dogs can only pass canine papilloma virus to other dogs. Humans, cats and other pets are safe from contracting the virus and developing warts.

“Canine papilloma virus is species-specific and therefore cannot be transmitted to humans or cats,” Dr. MacPete says. But if you have other dogs in the house, be wary, as papillomas are highly contagious between dogs. “Affected dogs can transmit the virus to other dogs through direct contact or when sharing toys, water or food bowls.”

Dr. Ochoa recommends keeping affected dogs away from others in order to prevent the spread of dog warts. “The best way to prevent warts is to keep your dog separated from other dogs,” she says. “Washing water bowls and food bowls to help decrease the spread of disease from one dog to another.”

Separation goes for when you’re in public, too. “Keeping your dog away from all other dogs is the best way to avoid [warts] altogether,” Ochoa adds. “This can be very difficult, as they can catch them from having nose-to-nose contact with an infected dog at the vet or pet store.”

But because dog warts are generally not a big deal, Dr. MacPete recommends not avoiding dog socializing opportunities just for the sake of avoiding dog warts.

“Dogs that go to dog parks, doggie day care, and puppy classes are more likely to get oral papillomas than a dog that never leaves the house,” Dr. MacPete adds. “That said, it is important people know that oral papillomas typically resolve on their own so this should not be a reason to skip doggie playdates. [After all], dogs need activity and most enjoy playing with other dogs.”

Has your dog ever developed dog warts? Let us know in the comment below!

Thumbnail: ©adogslifephoto | Thinkstock.

About the author:

Stephanie Osmanski is a freelance writer and social media consultant who specializes in health and wellness content. Her words have appeared in Seventeen, Whole Dog Journal, Parents Magazine and more. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at Stony Brook Southampton and writing a memoir. She lives in New York with her Pomsky, Koda, who is an emotional support animal training to be a certified therapy dog.

Learn more about dog warts and other health issues at dogster.com:

9 thoughts on “Dog Warts and All – What to Know”

  1. My 6 month old Aussie mix went to the vet today for surgery. They got OVER 100 WARTS off her mouth and throat. I am speechless.

  2. My 6 month old Aussie mix went to the vet today for surgery. They got OVER 100 WARTS off her mouth and throat. I am speechless.

  3. Our 12 yr old puppy mill rescue maltese has lots of warts! The vet removed 5 w/cryotherapy but, when I brought him back to get more frozen…he got physically sick & pooped all over the inside of car.
    We bought some Compound W freeze for wart removal but, am afraid it may hurt him too much.

    I read that Azrithromycin rx will help get rid of them, but, it didn’t say how many milligrams or ..for how long to give to him.

    Has anyone else had success w/this rx, &, if so, how much to give to an 18 lb dog?
    We’ve tried MANY ,MANY natural remedies..Apple Cider vinegar, coconut oil, tea tree oil, Thuja, & a few other things, but nothing has worked but cryotherapy.
    Does anyone have any success stories for wart removal?
    Thank you!

  4. My 7’yr old dog has warts. She is rescue dog and I’ve had her for 4yrs. Started getting warts 2 yrs ago…vet said not to worry about the warts. But she now has one where she can get at it and she keeps licking it til it bleeds. Is there anything I can put on it that won’t make her sick to help,with itchiness or irritation she feels? This is 3rd wart she has had. Thanks.

  5. My puppy recently developed warts. Will he be able to hang out with other dogs once the warts are all healed?

  6. We have two dogs. One is 3 and one is about one and a half. They only hang out with each other, don’t visit dog parks, and have not been to the vet recently. We did recently dogsat our friends’ dog for 5 days about a month ago. She is a young dog (not yet two) who also goes to doggy day care several days a week. A few days ago, we noticed our puppy had oral warts, and they seemed to be multiplying before our eyes! We are convinced they came from our friends’ dog, but she doesn’t have any symptoms. Can a dog be a carrier for the virus and spread it to another dog without developing symptoms themselves? This is so frustrating since our dogs wouldn’t have come into contact with this any other way.

  7. We know how you feel our Dog is 13 and dreading the day, she too has warts and one big one also on her foot and neck, we are afraid she is too old to remove etc she also has sight issues, really really dreading the day.

  8. My Shih Tzu developed several warts years ago. She will be sixteen on September 7th this year. Five years ago, her Vet removed two of them under a general anesthetic, but since that time, has advised not to remove any more due to her age. She still has several warts left; most are small and do not bother her or even attract her attention, but she has one on her foot which she sometimes licks and causes to bleed. Her vet gave us some medication for this infection. Sadly, she has now developed heart disease and is having great difficulty and may not be with me very long. I love her dearly and we are trying to keep her with us as long as God will let her stay with me, although I will not let her suffer in pain if that should occur.

  9. Pingback: Dog Warts and All – What to Know – Pet Dedicated

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