Dog Warts: A Common Condition

Does Your Dog Have the Papilloma Virus?

The canine papilloma virus is the dog version of human warts. Warts occurring among people are caused by a different virus than those on your dog. While the wart-like growths on your dog are not technically called warts, the viral papillomas resemble human warts in appearance, epidemiology, transmission and treatment. 


Viral papillomas look similar to a wart commonly found on the human body.  These warts are typically round in shape with a rough exterior, resembling cauliflower.  However, human warts are usually smoother and flatter than those observed on dogs.  These growths can appear anywhere on your dog’s body, but are most likely to occur on the eyelids, feet, mouth and muzzle area. The warts usually are seen in clusters, rather than solitary protrusions.    

 According to observational research, three types of papilloma virus among dogs have been discussed.  First, papillomatosis occurs in puppies and affects the mucus membranes in the mouth, which causes wart clusters on the lips, internal area of the mouth, esophagus and mask.  Secondly, cutaneous papillomas occur among older dogs and appear more frequently as a solitary growth than a cluster.  These individual bumps affect the pads of the feet and toe area.  Lastly, cutaneous inverted papillomas affect younger adult dogs and appear on the abdomen area.  The lesions are elevated papulonodules with a liquefied center.  These abdominal nodules can, but rarely do, turn into skin cancer. 

Oral Dog Warts from the Canine Papilloma VirusCredit: Wiki Media


 The canine papilloma virus is a very common virus among dogs.  However, this virus is not fully understood.  Approximately, one in five dogs will develop the papilloma virus in its lifetime. 

 The warts occur more frequently among younger dogs that are not fully developed.  Younger dogs tend to possess a weaker immune system and may contract the virus more readily than healthy, adult dogs.  


Your dog can transmit the canine papilloma virus to another dog via typical dog play.  Your dog contracts the virus through direct contact with another dog or by coming in contact with the virus in your dog’s environment (e.g., play toys, community grounds or an infected dog’s fecal matter).  After contact with the virus, your dog may show symptoms or signs of infection within one to two months. The virus is dormant for a short period of time prior to any visible symptoms emerging.  The virus can live on toys, the ground, and other environmental apparatus for up to two months in a 40-degree Fahrenheit environment.  However, it can only survive for six hours in a hot environment (i.e., 98-degree Fahrenheit environment).  It is unclear if the bumps must be visible in order to be contagious to other dogs. Hoever, if your dog has visible lesions, it is safe to assume that your dog is contagious to other dogs.

A compromised immunes system (e.g., pregnancy or sickness) or young, immature immune functioning is a debatable prerequisite for contracting the virus. The virus is only spread from dog to dog, so your dog cannot give it to your cat or other animal.  Additionally, humans cannot contract the canine papilloma virus.

Canine and Human PapillomasCredit: Wiki Media Canine Papilloma VirusCredit: Wiki Media


In the majority of canine papilloma virus cases, treatment is not necessary.  The dog’s immune system eventually fights off the virus to clear up any internal or external lesions.  However, some dogs develop a large number of lesions or nodules that can become infected with bacteria or make it difficult to carry out daily activities, such as eating, drinking, exercising, etc.  If this becomes the case with your dog, your vet may remove the warts by freezing them off or by cutting them off with a scalpel surgically.  Such surgical procedure is followed with a round of antibiotics to decrease any infection and swelling. Research supports the surgical removal of warts, as this may help stimulate your dog’s immune system.    

Another potential treatment includes a topical antibacterial medication known as imiquimod.  Imiquimod is growing in popularity as a first-choice treatment option for dogs with the papilloma virus.   This ointment assists in enhancing the dog’s immune system to kill the virus and prevent recurrences.

A promising antibiotic, known as azithromycin, heals lesions within 10 days and prevents recurrences for at least 8 months.  Your dog may be prescribed a 10-day regimen of azithromycin to yield the aforementioned results.  This form of treatment is available in the United States and Canada via a licensed veterinarian.   

Unfortunately, unlike the human papilloma virus, there is no vaccine to prevent dogs from contracting the canine papilloma virus. 


Most of the time dog warts are not dangerous and do not cause complications.  The warts usually disappear as the dog’s immunity strengthens.  However, in very rare cases the virus can develop into a cancerous growth.  In 99 percent of all cases, the bumps disappear within 6 months.  Oral lesions usually disappear faster than ocular and paw lesions.  In rare instances, lesions do not disappear and may need to be surgically removed.

Because these bumps can cause a break in the skin, a bacterial infection may develop.  If you suspect a bacterial infection, see your vet to get an antibiotic to help decrease bacterial side effects, such as inflammation, bad breath and redness, and further infection.   

Observe your dog’s warts daily.  Take note if they change in color, size or shape.  These symptoms may be indicative of a more serious condition.  Skin conditions are common occurrence and are caused by a myriad of factors.  Talk to your veterinarian to confirm your dog has warts. 


1.  Do not take your dog to a doggie daycare, dog park or communal place for other dogs to play and come in contact with your infected dog. Some dog care venues require your dog to be free of all visible warts for a minimum of 10 days before your dog can return.

2.  Boost the immune system of your dog by providing daily supplementation.  Antioxidants,  omega-3, and omega-6 fatty acids may help increase your dog’s immunity. 

3.  Try a homeopathic treatment to treat your dog’s papilloma virus.  Fucus vesiculosis, spirulina, dandelion and horsetail are four herbs/remedies used to enhance a dog’s skin health.

4.  Make sure your dog is up to date with its shots, which assist in keeping their immunity strong. 

5.  Do not allow your dog to share water and food bowls with other dogs.  Each dog should eat and drink from its own bowl.   

6.  Monitor your dog’s licking and playing objects.  Clean dog toys frequently, even if these toys have not come in direct contact with other dogs, to prevent your dog from contracting the canine papilloma virus.