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Papillomas in dogs

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Papillomas, or warts, are benign skin tumors caused by viruses. They are common in dogs but not in cats. In dogs, they usually show up as inflamed polyps, often on the feet or around and in the mouth. They may also appear as flat, scaly, raised areas, or as hard masses that grow inward. Papillomas may ulcerate or bleed, and the type that grows inward may be painful, particularly if they are on the feet. In cats, skin papillomas are usually flat and sometimes scaly.

Papilloma viruses can survive for long periods in the environment. They enter your pet's body through cuts, scrapes, insect bites, or areas of inflammation.

There are many different varieties of papilloma viruses, with each species of animal (including people) infected by different types. Because each species of animal has its own viruses, there is little danger of your pet transmitting a papilloma virus to you or other family members. These viruses are carried by healthy animals without any signs of a problem but can later cause warts when the immune system is weakened by disease, malnutrition, or other factors.

Your veterinarian may make an initial diagnosis based on the appearance of the lesion, but a skin biopsy is needed for confirmation. Warts often disappear on their own as your pet slowly develops immunity to them, but inflamed, infected, or bleeding papillomas may need to be surgically removed. Preventing your pet from scratching, licking, or biting the wart will reduce itching, inflammation, ulceration, infection, and bleeding. Any ulcerated area should be kept clean.

Q&A

What is a papilloma?

Papilloma is another name for warts, which are benign skin tumors caused by viruses. 

How do pets get warts?

Papilloma viruses cannot survive for long periods in the environment, so infection is usually transmitted by direct contact with infected animals.  The virus often enters the body through cuts, scrapes, insect bites, or areas of inflammation.

Can family members become infected?

Each species of animal usually has its own viruses, so there is little danger of your pet transmitting a papilloma virus to you or other family members. 

Should papillomas be removed in pets?

Warts often disappear on their own, but inflamed, infected, or bleeding papillomas may need to be surgically removed. 

Credit: Written and reviewed by John A. Bukowski, DVM, MPH, PhDand Susan E. Aiello, DVM, ELS
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