What Causes Dog Warts? And What You Should Do About Them

dog in a frog costume

You probably know what a wart looks like -- perhaps youโ€™ve even had one. But did you know that dogs can develop warts too? Learn how to identify a wart on your dog and what treatments are available.

Dog warts -- also called viral papillomas or fibro papillomas -- are benign skin tumors caused by a virus. While dog warts are usually not dangerous, it is important to reach a correct diagnosis with your veterinarian, as what may look like a wart could actually be a more serious skin condition.  In addition, some warts cause pain and/or become infected, requiring treatment. Read on to learn what you need to know about dog warts.

Dog Wart Causes

Dog warts are caused by the canine oral papillomavirus, which is a different virus than the one that causes warts in humans. The canine oral papillomavirus is highly contagious between dogs and transmitted via direct contact with warts on an infected dog or through direct contact with the virus in the infected dog’s environment. Typically, a dog will only pick up the virus if their skin is injured, if its immune system is compromised, or if its immune system is immature. This explains why puppies and young dogs are commonly affected.

The incubation period for the papillomavirus is 1 to 2 months, so you will only begin seeing symptoms after that time has passed.

The virus can only be spread between dogs; people and other pets are not at risk.

Dog Wart Symptoms

Viral papillomas are round but tend to have a jagged surface that resembles a cauliflower. In young dogs, they are most often seen on the lips or the muzzle, though they may also occur between the toes, on the eyelids, on the surface of the eye, or near the genitalia.

More often than not, they appear in groups rather than as solitary growth.

While most warts are painless, some may cause discomfort. For example, papillomas in the mouth may interfere with a dog’s ability to eat or chew normally and cause drooling. Papillomas between the toes may bother the dog when they put weight on their feet, and the dog may try to lick or bite the wart, resulting in pain, bleeding, and/or a secondary infection.

Diagnosing and Treating Dog Warts

Viral papillomas are easy for a veterinarian to diagnose based on appearance alone. However, if the veterinarian is uncertain about whether the growth is a wart or something else, they may take biopsy samples.

In most cases, no treatment is required, and warts will go away on their own within 2 to 12 months. However, if the warts are ulcerated, infected, causing pain, or making it difficult for your dog to function, they may be removed. They can be removed surgically (cutting them off), cryogenically (freezing them off), with laser ablation (using radiation), or with electrosurgery/electrocautery (burning them off).

Antibiotics may also be prescribed if the warts are infected, and in some cases, antibiotics have been shown to stimulate remission. Azithromycin is a commonly prescribed antibiotic for dog warts.

Sometimes, warts are removed and made into a vaccine that can be used for prevention (for example, if there is a wart outbreak in a kennel) or as treatment. However, the use of the vaccine is still somewhat experimental and may not be appropriate for your dog’s specific situation.

In rare cases, a papilloma may develop into a malignant squamous cell carcinoma. To make sure that the warts are behaving normally and not going through any malignant changes, your veterinarian will likely schedule follow-up visits until the warts go away.

Because the virus is so contagious, infected dogs should be separated from those that are not infected.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I worry if my dog has warts?

Warts are a common skin condition in dogs, and while they can be unsightly, they are usually not a major cause for concern. However, it is best to have any new growths or skin abnormalities on your dog examined by a veterinarian to rule out any potential health issues. In most cases, dog warts are caused by a virus and will eventually go away on their own without treatment. However, if the warts are causing your dog discomfort or are located in a spot where they could become irritated or infected, your veterinarian may recommend treatment options such as removal or topical medications.

Do dog warts go away?

Yes, dog warts can go away on their own. A virus causes most warts in dogs, and they can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months to disappear. In some cases, it may take up to a year or more for the wart to completely disappear. However, not all warts in dogs will go away on their own. Some warts may grow larger over time and can cause discomfort or become infected. In these cases, treatment may be necessary to remove the wart and prevent further complications.

How do you prevent warts on dogs?

It's not always possible to prevent warts on dogs, as they are often caused by a virus that can be difficult to avoid. A strong immune system can help prevent viral infections that can lead to warts. Make sure your dog is up-to-date on vaccinations and is eating a healthy, balanced diet. If you know a dog with warts, try to limit your dog's contact with them. Warts can be spread through direct contact with an infected dog, so avoiding contact can help reduce the risk of your dog getting warts. Regularly cleaning and disinfecting your dog's bedding, toys, and other items can help prevent the spread of viruses that can lead to warts. Warts can sometimes develop at the site of a cut or scratch, so it's important to keep your dog's wounds clean and treated with an antiseptic to prevent infection. By regularly checking your dog's skin, you can catch any new warts early and seek treatment if necessary. While these steps may help reduce the risk of your dog developing warts, keep in mind that they may still develop warts despite your best efforts.

How do you get rid of warts on dogs naturally?

Applying vitamin E oil to the wart may help reduce inflammation and promote healing. You can apply the oil topically to the affected area once or twice daily. Thuja is a homeopathic remedy that is sometimes used to treat warts in dogs. The remedy is made from the leaves and twigs of the Thuja tree, which is native to North America and parts of Asia. According to homeopathic theory, Thuja can help stimulate the body's natural healing process and reduce the size of warts. Soaking a cotton ball in apple cider vinegar and placing it on the wart for a few minutes each day may help reduce the size of the wart over time. However, be careful not to get the vinegar in your dog's eyes or on healthy skin. Applying aloe vera gel to the wart may help soothe the skin and promote healing. Apply the gel to the wart once or twice daily. If your dog has warts that are causing discomfort or are not going away on their own, your veterinarian may recommend medical treatment to remove the wart. Treatment options may include surgical removal, cryotherapy (freezing the wart), or laser therapy.

What are the stages of dog warts?

The stages of dog warts can vary depending on the type of wart and the individual dog's immune response. The first stage of a dog wart is the appearance of a small, raised bump on the skin. The bump may be smooth or rough and can vary in size. Over time, the wart may grow larger and may become more irritated or inflamed. It may also develop a rough or cauliflower-like texture. As the wart matures, it may develop a central depression or a scab-like appearance. It may also become firmer to the touch. In many cases, dog warts will regress on their own over time. The wart may shrink in size or disappear completely. However, some warts may persist or may even continue to grow larger. In rare cases, dog warts can become infected or may develop into cancerous tumors. It's important to monitor any skin growths on your dog and have them evaluated by a veterinarian if you notice any changes in size, shape, or texture.

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