Lumps, bumps, and warts can be found on dogs and can become a concern. Generally, dog warts are not dangerous, but owners need to be aware of what signs indicate something worrying. A general health check with knowledge of what may require a vet check can reduce worrying drastically.
But what are warts on dogs? And are there any symptoms that can identify a wart immediately when looking at a lump? Any owner will also want to know about their treatment options and we will present you with all the various choices. Therefore, you can feel comfortable in knowing about your dog’s new wart and the proper way to treat it.
What are Dog Warts?
A dog wart, also known as Canine papillomavirus, can be defined as a benign viral skin tumor. This is a type of external growth on the skin that does not have any direct negative health effects. They can bleed if they are caught, and your dog may gnaw at them as well. But these are the only concerns of their warts.
In appearance, canine warts look like a small cauliflower. These are skin abscesses that start off very small and usually grow to the size of a dime to a bottle cap. However, some warts continue to grow, which is why many owners look into their removal.
Not every skin growth on your dog is automatically a wart. Skin tags, cysts, and ever cancerous tumors can also grow on your dog’s skin. Some types of growths are location specific, others such as warts can grow anywhere on the body. This can make them more difficult to identify. However, their physical appearance is relatively recognizable. They are not perfectly smooth and will have rounded ridges which increase in numbers over time. Often, warts will drop off after a while or stop increasing in size so they are no longer a worry. However, some will continue to grow until dealt with.
Symptoms of Dog Warts
If you notice a skin growth of some kind on your dog, you can identify if it is a wart from how it looks. They are rounded, cauliflower-like growths. Although warts can grow in any area of the body, there are some areas that will develop warts more commonly than others. These include around the mouth and between the toes. Make sure to regularly check between your dog’s toes for warts, as their continued growth may cause your dog discomfort. Thankfully, they are not directly painful, but the growing pressure is rarely comfortable for your pup.
If your dog has a long coat, you will want to regularly check them for growths. Do this by feeling beneath their coat. Gently move your hand through their fur to check for any abnormalities. If you feel a lump, then part their fur to check for its appearance. If you suspect it to be a wart, make sure to check it often to see if it is bothering your dog or if they are gnawing at it. Chewing at a wart can lead to a small open wound which may require stitches or antibiotic treatment. Furthermore, if it begins to push on areas of your dog’s body or fur, for example in the corner of your dog’s ear, you may then have to consider treatment.
Dog Warts Treatment
You usually won’t need to treat the virus since your dog’s body will heal itself and develop immunity. But if the virus stays for over two months, you can try the following treatment options.
Surgery is an option for dog wart removal and is one of the more common ways to do so. A scalpel can be used to remove the wart and then the small remaining vessels are cauterized to prevent excess bleeding. This is because the wart will have had some blood flow to keep the tissue alive and therefore this has to be ceased. The area is either sutured or more usually stapled shut to allow for minimal scarring.
Dogs will often be given a medical pet shirt for two reasons, both to encourage healing. Firstly, the pressure helps to keep the wound closed and minimizes the chance of it getting caught and torn open. More commonly though, a medical shirt prevents your dog from licking or gnawing on the wound during the two week healing period. This can lead to it opening up again, bleeding more, or bacteria entering the site. If bacteria enter the wound, it can become infected and your dog will then require antibiotic treatment.
Cryogenic treatment involves the application of extreme cold to kill the living tissue attacked by this method. As it can also hit surrounding tissues and nerves, it often reduces any discomfort your dog may have had from the wart, especially in uncomfortable regions, such as between the toes. This technique can be a lot quicker and less intrusive than surgery, which is why many owners prefer it. It does depend on the eligibility at your veterinary practice as to whether your dog can receive this form of treatment.
Furthermore, the healing time is next to nothing compared to surgery. Once your dog is awake, they can behave as normal and the wart should gradually shrivel and drop off. The process is almost always performed under local anesthetic to keep the dog still, avoid stress, and prevent fearful or aggressive responses. Furthermore, the cold can also prevent the possibility of bacteria entering the site as most pathogens are frozen off during the procedure.
Some vets argue that laser therapy is the strongest treatment method and is used when other treatments do not work; reoccurring warts are recommended for laser treatment. Your dog will be put under general anesthetic and the laser will attack the wart on the deepest level of its tissue, thereby destroying the root. This should prevent the wart re-developing.
Usually, the laser has extreme heat and boils the blood vessels giving the wart a natural blood circulation. This will destroy the vessels and prevent the wart from receiving any blood flow, thereby leading to dead tissue. The tissue will begin to die and drop off sometime after the treatment. However, many owners try to avoid this treatment first as it is known to leave scars. Those who take their dogs to competitive dog shows do not want the marks to remain prominent or even prevent the growth of hair in that region. Often, the fur will grow back, but there is a possibility it won’t.
Electrosurgery and electrocautery
This procedure uses electricity to produce heat to remove your dog’s wart. Often, electricity is cycled through a special needle that is placed into the wart. This treatment kills the surrounding cells and destroys the wart. Your dog will be placed under anesthetic as any movement could be deadly during this procedure. This technique is so precise, it can often take around half an hour to complete a full session, although one session is normally all that is needed.
The wound should slowly scab over and then the scab will drop off after a few weeks. The larger the size of the wart, the longer the healing period, though it usually takes between 1 and 6 weeks. During the healing period, you need to make sure your dog is not licking or chewing the scab, it needs to be left alone to heal effectively. Otherwise, bacteria can enter the wound and lead to an infection, which will need antibiotic treatment.
When your dog has a wart, it is important to understand that this has been contracted and is produced by a virus. Using Interferon, a drug to stimulate the immune system, your dog may be able to battle the wart’s virus internally. The drug works by stimulating the immune system by using chemicals from white blood cells. These cells play the role of defense and attack against viruses and bacteria, so enhancing a dog’s immune system with higher levels of these chemicals enables a better defense.
This treatment is relatively strong, so unless your dog has a severe case of warts, it isn’t used. Unfortunately, this treatment can be quite costly so some consider it not worth trying unless other procedures do not work, or if the warts are reoccurring. Most commonly, this medication is given orally in a diluted form, this will happen daily. Other vets use a slightly less diluted treatment and inject it. This medication works very well with some individuals and does not seem to affect others at all.
This is a topical treatment that is applied to the wart and a small portion of the surrounding area daily. It works by increasing the already existing inflammation targeted at the wart, aiding your dog’s immune system to destroy the virus. The topical medicine is usually 5% Imiquimod and works in just over fifteen days in the average case. It is particularly useful in awkward places where surgery is more difficult, especially orally. This medication is being prescribed more frequently as it is effective, cheaper than others, and easy for at-home use.
Unfortunately, there are side effects that have been noted. Most commonly, the site along with other areas of skin can experience itching and burning. Due to the purpose of increasing inflammation, it is a logical side effect. However, this does not make it any less unpleasant for your dog. If your vet prescribes this medication to your dog, ask them for preventative measures in regard to excess inflammation and pain.
This drug is given to wart affected dogs daily for an average of ten days and has varied results of Azithromycin’s effectiveness. Some state it to be one of the most effective treatments of warts, whilst others argue it to change very little. It is an antibiotic treatment, which means it can be considered stronger than many prescribed medical treatments. It works by attacking the virus and preventing it from spreading. In more severe cases of wart spread, antibiotics may not be enough. Furthermore, there are a wide array of side-effects that can affect your pup including:
- Allergic reactions manifesting in skin sensitivities
- Appetite loss
- Bodily infections
- Churning stomach, diarrhea, and vomiting
Although these symptoms do not affect all dogs, they can be extremely unpleasant for those they do. Other treatment solutions may be less detrimental to other areas of your dog’s health, although all have their negative side effects. Luckily, once the treatment stops, these effects will follow very quickly afterward.
Currently, scientists have taken skin samples from dogs with warts and are attempting to create a vaccine for other dogs. As this is a quite infectious/contagious virus, creating a general vaccine would help develop herd immunity and lessen the need for treatments at all. Hence why there is the current input of this preventative measure. However, this vaccine is still very much in production and there is no guarantee it will work, some vets offer a developmental vaccine but its effectiveness is debated.
Natural Remedies for Removing Dog Warts
Some owners with less money, high concerns, or more interested in non-medical treatments may wonder about natural remedies. Here we have provided the top three natural remedies used to treat wart outbreaks in dogs.
There are multiple documentations of dogs having vitamin E applied daily to their warts with the eventual success of treatment. It has been said to dry out the top of the wart around ten days after the treatment is first applied, and with continued use, it eventually falls off and the remaining area heals. As vitamin E’s purpose is to maintain healthy skin, it makes sense that it would have an adverse effect on unwanted lesions. In order to directly apply vitamin E, puncture a dog safe vitamin E capsule and rub the contents onto the wart. Some recommend doing so twice daily for effectiveness.
This is a cheap remedy that some owners will guarantee will treat any dog warts. Furthermore, as it avoids multiple trips to the vets, surgery, and any other elements, it saves time and money.
Thuja is usually a liquid or pellet based treatment and can be used effectively to treat warts on dogs. It can be bought online as a homeopathic treatment for multiple dog ailments. It is advertised to have no known side effects. Thuja is a type of tree found in eastern North America. The oil from its branches is what this product is made from. Thuja reinforces the immune system and helps your dog attack the wart virus from the inside. Furthermore, a stronger immune system should prevent the virus from reoccurring as your dog should be able to fight it off.
The liquid treatment can be given topically or orally depending on the brand. The pellets are also given orally and are recommended to be hidden in your dog’s food to get them to ingest them.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Note that this method should not treat dog warts near the eyes, anus, or genitals. But apple cider vinegar can be effective to treat dog warts. It is used to eliminate growth and although will not cause pain, it can cause tingling and mild stinging in the middle of treatment.
Two to three drops should be applied to the wart and allowed to soak in for around ten minutes. Keep your dog away from the wart and do not let them lick at it until this time period is over. Wipe any excess apple cider vinegar away at the end of the ten minutes. Repeat this 3 – 4 times a day until the wart begins to dry, scab, and fall off. You will notice the wart progressively getting smaller during the treatment.
Dog Warts Prevention
The main method of prevention is to avoid dogs with warts due to how contagious this virus is. If a dog at the dog park has a wart, try to avoid them until you know they have been fully treated. Likewise, if your dog has warts, avoid walking them near other dogs as they may contract warts from your pup. What increases the probability of contraction is if your dog has a cut or abrasion on the skin, and is then in contact with dogs with warts. This increases the ease of the virus moving to your dog’s body and your dog contracting the virus.
Your dog may contract the virus but have a strong enough immune system to combat this. Warts only appear on dogs with a weakened immune system. Therefore, if you are able to maintain a high immune system in your dog, they are less likely to become affected by dog warts. You can also discuss with your vet if your dog should try the autogenous vaccination in case they are surrounded by other dogs that have warts.
Dog Warts – FAQs
We want to make sure you feel confident in your knowledge of dog warts and are not left with any further questions. Therefore, we have compiled the top five most searched questions about dogs with warts.
How to Treat Dog Warts?
When trying to decide the treatment for your dog’s warts, there are a few factors you should consider:
- Severity: Does your dog require a stronger treatment?
- Age and health: Is your dog well enough to undergo some procedures?
- Cost: Can you afford the pricey procedures?
- Appearance or irritation: Is the wart bothering your dog or just you?
You can discuss all of these factors with a vet to decide what is the best method of treatment for you and your dog. They will be able to recommend the right treatment for your situation and your dog’s warts.
Are Dog Warts Dangerous?
Dog warts are not directly dangerous. Differing types of growths on your dog can be dangerous, but warts are benign, which means harmless. They have the potential to cause irritation and even lead to infection depending on your dog’s behavior.
If a wart is located in an awkward position, such as near your dog’s eye or in between their toes, this can cause sensitivity and pain from pressure and rubbing. If the wart begins to bother your dog, they may obsessively lick it or even gnaw at the area. This can lead to an exposed wound, bleeding, and even pain. The bacteria from a dog’s mouth can lead to the area being infected, which in turn can be dangerous.
How Long do Dog Warts Last?
A natural defense against dog warts can take anywhere from two to five months to be created. Although, many vets recommend to start seeking treatment if the warts are in an uncomfortable location, at around two months. This is because during the time antibodies are fighting the wart, it can grow in size and cause more discomfort for your dog.
The growth rate of warts are relatively fast. A small wart near the eye, for example, can grow and start to rub on the cornea within a month. Consult your vet if you have any concerns about whether to pursue treatment now or in the future, they will be able to give you tailored advice.
Should I get my Dog's Warts Removed?
There are a few questions you need to ask yourself before making the decision of whether to remove your dog’s warts or not. These include:
- Are warts affecting your dog? This can be anywhere from an annoyance to discomfort
- Are they growing rapidly? A fast growth rate increases the chance they will become an annoyance for your dog
- Do you take your dog to dog shows? A dog with warts would not be allowed in
- Is your dog vulnerable? Are they very young, very old, or have ongoing health issues?
Asking these questions and comparing the answers should allow you or a vet to compose an answer as to whether you should have warts removed or not.
Are Dog Warts Contagious?
Dog warts are very contagious. Simply walking your dog in a park with another infected dog can lead to your pooch contracting the virus. This is why it is recommended for no dogs with warts to go to areas with other dogs until they are treated.
Dogs are especially susceptible when they are in a vulnerable group. These are categorized as a dog who is very young, very old or unwell. This is because their immune system is struggling to protect them as normal, therefore they are unable to fight off the virus. Similarly, if your dog has an open wound, this will make the contraction of the disease much easier as the virus can quickly enter the wound and spread to other areas of your pup’s body.