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Warts in Dogs

What Are Dog Warts?

Dog warts, technically known as canine viral papillomatosis, might sound alarming, but they’re essentially just warts (papillomas) found in dogs. While the term might seem severe, dog warts typically aren’t a cause for major concern. However, it’s important to be aware of them so you can differentiate them from more serious ailments.

Any dog can develop warts, but they’re more commonly seen in dogs with weakened immune systems or those who frequently interact with other dogs. Young dogs often experience warts in their mouths, whereas older dogs tend to have them on their skin. Certain breeds, such as Shar-Peis, Cocker Spaniels, Miniature Schnauzers, Kerry Blue Terriers, and Pugs, appear to be at a higher risk of developing dog warts.

Symptoms of Dog Warts

Dog warts typically resemble a small cauliflower head, although there are also less common types like inverted papillomas (often firm lumps with a dot in the middle) and dark, scaly skin plaques with an irregular surface.

These warts can emerge in various areas of a dog’s body, including in and around the mouth, around the eyes, between the toes, and almost anywhere on the skin. Some dogs may only develop one or a few small warts that are easily missed, while others may have entire regions of their body covered in warts of different sizes.

Warts in the mouth area may hinder a dog’s ability to eat and drink normally, while those on the feet can lead to lameness, especially if the area is injured or becomes infected.

What Causes Dog Warts?

Dog warts stem from infection with papillomaviruses, with various types identified, each causing a distinct form of the disease, such as warts around the mouth versus those affecting the feet.

Dogs with warts can transmit the condition to other dogs but not to other animals or humans. Once a dog contracts a specific type of papillomavirus, they become immune to that type, though not to others. Papillomavirus can persist in the environment for weeks, potentially leading to transmission if another dog encounters the virus in that area later on.

The virus enters the body through a skin break, and infection occurs when a dog’s immune system fails to eradicate the virus before it establishes itself. Typically, it takes four to six weeks for warts to manifest after a dog contracts the papillomavirus.


In the majority of instances, veterinarians can diagnose dog warts through a simple physical examination. If there are any uncertainties regarding the diagnosis, the veterinarian may opt to extract a tissue sample and forward it to a pathologist for identification.


Warts in dogs typically resolve on their own within six to eight weeks as the dog’s immunity builds against the virus. However, there are circumstances where veterinary intervention becomes necessary:

  • Instances where dog warts are numerous, large, or situated in locations causing secondary symptoms like lameness, difficulty eating or drinking, or eye irritation.
  • Warts that bleed or become infected with bacteria.
  • Rare cases where warts persist and may develop into cancerous tumors, particularly if present for over three to five months.
  • Dogs undergoing immunosuppressive treatments or facing serious health conditions may struggle to eliminate warts independently.

For isolated or small numbers of warts, surgical removal via scalpel, laser, or cryosurgery (using intense cold) is the preferred treatment. In cases where numerous warts pose problems, medications may be necessary, though their effectiveness is challenging to gauge given the spontaneous disappearance of most dog warts. Veterinarians may employ various treatments:

  • Interferon: an oral or injectable medication that boosts the immune system.
  • Imiquimod: a topical antiviral and antitumor medication.
  • Cimetidine: an oral medication that may bolster the immune system.
  • Azithromycin: one study suggested efficacy of this oral antibiotic.
  • Immunostimulation: administering a vaccine derived from a dog’s own warts or Immunoregulin (a suspension of killed Propionibacterium acnes bacteria) to prompt an immune response against the virus.
  • Reduction of immunosuppression: where feasible, discontinuing or reducing immunosuppressive drugs and more aggressively treating diseases impacting the dog’s immune system.

Preventing the Spread of Dog Warts

To minimize the risk of your dog developing warts, there are several precautions you can take. It’s crucial to avoid letting your dog interact with or come into contact with dogs displaying visible warts. If your dog’s skin barrier is compromised due to wounds, rashes, or if their immune system isn’t functioning properly, it’s advisable to refrain from taking them to places where other dogs gather, such as parks, doggy daycares, and kennels.

In the event that your dog does develop warts despite your preventive efforts, it’s important to keep them isolated from other dogs until all the warts have completely disappeared.

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