Everything You Wanted to Know About Dog Warts

Picture of a dog outside on the deck

Are all dog warts dangerous? Are they all the same? Does the same treatment work for all kinds? We’re answering all of these questions and more in today’s article, so keep on reading!

Why does my dog have warts?

A wart is typically a canine papilloma, which effectively means a benign tumor of the skin. Naturally, warts can also be malignant, but this happens only in some cases.

Canine papillomas are usually transmitted from one dog to another by direct contact. Their nature is viral, and there are many such pathogens that can cause a variety of warts, which can differ in type, size, consistency, and the body region they show up in.

Another note that we have to make about these viruses is that they tend to survive for a long time in the environment. Therefore, direct contact between one dog and another is not mandatory. Your dog can also get the virus from shared bedding, toys, or food and water bowls.

Papillomaviruses are very common and they affect all animals, including people. In humans, the most common type of wart is the plantar wart (papillomas that show up on the feet).

What do dog warts look like?

Warts can differ a lot in terms of size and appearance. Most warts look like tiny cauliflowers. There is a stalk that leads the formation to the inner layers of the skin.

While most warts have obvious and clear margins, there are some that resemble scaly plaques. As for the location, they can show up everywhere on the dog’s body, but it’s generally acknowledged that they tend to appear more often on the animal’s face, neck, and genital area.

Some warts can ulcerate and bleed. This can also happen due to mechanical factors, such as the wart being in an area that constantly gets rubbed onto surfaces.

To give you an example, if your dog has lots and lots of warts on their lips, they might make feeding and drinking water difficult, which can in time lead to the animal having a less capable immune system.

How are dog warts diagnosed?

Many years ago, when advanced methods of diagnosis hadn’t been invented, most vets performed surgery or performed standard cauterization or electrocauterization on the skin for the purpose of removing the wart.

But in some cases, the extent to which the warts have spread can be so large that surgery might not even make sense.

The most important aspect when it comes to setting a clear diagnosis is finding out just what type of wart your dog has. There are several techniques that can reveal this, such as fine-needle aspiration (effectively using a small needle fitted onto a syringe to ‘draw’ a portion of the cells inside the wart and then examine them under the microscope).

If the wart is removed in surgery, it can also be examined histopathologically (also under the microscope). There’s also the option of a biopsy, in which case a piece of the tissue would be removed.

Histopathology can be essential when it comes to making the difference between a benign and a malignant wart, so you should carefully consider your veterinarian’s recommendations, especially if they suspect that the wart might be more dangerous than what it looks like.

Treatment

You’ll be happy to know that most young dogs develop immunity against the virus over the course of two to three months. If the wart is benign, the vet might choose to wait and see how it behaves for a period of time, particularly if your canine friend is perfectly healthy.

While most papillomas tend to regress, some animals do tend to carry persistent warts. Surgery is the elective therapy, even in cases where the diagnosis shows that your dog has squamous cell carcinoma.

Since we mentioned that some warts could be ruptured due to constant friction, they can also get infected with other microorganisms. In these situations, your vet will administer an antibiotic, potentially after performing an antibiogram, to find out just what germ has caused the infection.

Long-lasting warts can also be treated with medication such as interferon, antitumor drugs such as imiquimod, or cimetidine.

More often than not, the focus of the treatment is making sure that your dog’s immune system is functioning properly so that it’s capable of making the wart regress on its own.

Can you prevent dog warts?

Unfortunately, there is no certain method of preventing dog warts. However, what you can do is to prevent your pooch from coming in contact with other dogs that have clearly visible warts on their bodies.

If you intend to use your dog for breeding, you also have to be completely certain that the male or female they’re supposed to mate with is perfectly healthy. We’ve already mentioned that some types of warts can be venereal tumors, and those can be extremely challenging to treat.

Keeping your dog entirely isolated from other animals is not something that most people can do, especially if they live in apartment buildings and they have to take their canine companions out for walks in shared public spaces such as parks.

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