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Canine papilloma: signs, causes and treatment

Poorly dog on a sofa advice

Canine papilloma virus is not contagious to humans.

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Canine papilloma virus is a group of related viruses that are one of the causes of dog warts. The main sign that your dog has canine papilloma virus is the appearance of cauliflower-shaped growths, often in the mouth or on the face. 

By Dr Hester Mulhall MA, VetMB, MRCVS

Updated on the 19/11/2020, 22:08

The canine papilloma virus is one of the causes of dog warts, but these warts do not usually require treatment, as they tend to resolve on their own. However, it is always recommended to check any new lumps with a vet in case they need to be tested, treated or removed. There is not a commonly used vaccine for canine papillomavirus, but a dog’s immune system is usually able to deal with the virus itself and, as such, progression of the condition is generally not severe.

How long does it take for canine papilloma to go away?

It can take a few months for the viral infection to resolve, but in some individuals the papillomas will disappear more quickly or even take longer. If you are concerned that your dog has been affected for a long period of time, that the lumps are sore or causing irritation, or that there are any changes in the warts’ size, shape or colour, then book your dog in for a veterinary check-up.

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What does canine papilloma virus look like?

Canine papillomas are often compared to a cauliflower in appearance. They usually have a bumpy surface and often grow together in groups. Often these will be oral papillomas, which means that they grow on the lips and gums. However, they can grow on the skin as well. The virus itself is not visible to the human eye as it’s microscopic in size.

What causes canine papilloma?

Canine papilloma is caused by a canine papilloma virus. This can be caught from other dogs or items that have been in contact with an infected dog, such as toys, food bowls and dog beds. It is generally more common in younger dogs as their immune system has not yet developed protection against the virus. However, older dogs can also catch it. In fact, most dogs will catch the virus while they are young, but not all dogs develop symptoms such as warts. The incubation period between catching the virus and showing any symptoms can take as long as a couple of months.

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Do dog papillomas bleed?

Dog papillomas can bleed, especially if they are in the mouth and catch on a tooth. For skin papillomas, this is often a sign that your dog has caught or rubbed the papilloma, causing irritation. It can also be an indication of infection, so it is worth having the warts checked out by a vet in case they require treatment.

How do I get rid of my dogs papilloma?

Most papillomas will resolve by themselves thanks to your pet’s immune system, and you should never apply any home remedies, even a natural treatment. Interfering with the warts can lead to greater risk of infection with bacteria and make the warts really sore. If you are worried about how long the papillomas are taking to resolve, you should speak to a vet about whether any further testing is necessary.

Can dogs get canine papilloma virus more than once?

Some dogs will have a recurrence of canine papilloma virus, which usually suggests that the dog has a latent infection, which is one that never fully went away. Particularly in an older dog, the reappearance of canine papillomas might suggest a weakened immune system, so always seek veterinary advice.

Are dog warts contagious to humans?

Canine papilloma virus is not contagious to humans or indeed to other animals. It is only transmitted from dog to dog and when they have been in close contact.

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Do canine papilloma warts fall off?

Many canine papilloma warts resolve without intervention. Sometimes this means that they dry out and fall off. If a wart is causing discomfort to your dog, or keeps becoming sore or infected, then removal may be necessary. A vet will be able to advise you how to best monitor progression and whether any intervention is necessary.