Should you crush dog warts? This is likely something that owners of dogs with wart-like growths may wonder about considering how nasty and annoying warts can be. Most of us have even had warts at least once, but what about our canine companions? Are dogs really prone to developing warts? The answer is yes, just like people dogs can get warts too. However, it should be noted that human warts and canine warts are not of the exact same type.
Understanding Warts in Dogs
Warts are non-cancerous (benign), rough-textured, cauliflower-like masses that appear on the dog’s skin unexpectedly and abruptly. They can pop up practically overnight and then spread really quickly. The condition characterized by development of one or more warts is known as papillomatosis. Although unsightly, warts are not a medical emergency, and more often than not, tend to resolve on their own.
What causes warts in dogs? Warts are caused by the canine papilloma virus-1 (CPV-1). The virus is transmitted between dogs via close contact. Simply put, a dog can contract the CPV-1 when it comes in contact with an infected dog or objects that the infected dog has touched. For the virus to be successfully transmitted, the recipient dog’s skin barrier must be disrupted (trauma, laceration, infection).
The incubation period (the period of time between infection with germs/virus and the appearance of symptoms) lasts 1 to 2 months.
Warts are more common among puppies and young dogs (under 2 years of age). This is because puppies and young dogs have underdeveloped immune systems that cannot fight off the infection. Basically all dogs with impaired immune systems (old, sick) are at risk of developing warts.
Simply put, dogs come in contact with CPV-1 on a daily basis. However, only dogs with an impaired immune system and disrupted skin barriers will become infected.
Signs of Warts in Dogs
What do dog warts look like? Warts are unsightly masses with rough surfaces and diameters that are usually less than 0.5 centimeters. They can be either round or elongated, while their base of attachment is small and narrow. If you spot a wart on your dog, have a closer look and examine your dog completely. Rather than as solitary growths, dog warts usually appear in groups.
Unless there are complications, most warts are asymptomatic. They are not itchy and do not cause any serious problems. Dog warts also tend to grow more in certain areas of the dog's body. Usually dogs develop warts in or around the mouth (lips, gum, tongue). In that case, they are considered oral papillomas.
Dogs can also develop warts on the eyelids, throat, feet, arms, between the toes, around the anus or genitals. Generally, warts develop on non-haired places.
While most warts in dogs do not cause symptoms, complications may arise if the warts are located in places like the dog's mouth or throat. In such cases the warts interfere with the dog’s normal functioning and everyday activities. For instance, if the warts are located in the mouth they interfere with the eating process. They can cause pain and discomfort while chewing and swallowing.
Over time, once the dog associates eating with pain it may show signs of food aversion (anorexia). If the warts are located in the throat, they can lead to disabled swallowing or even breathing. Fortunately, warts rarely develop in the throat.
Due to repeated trauma, warts can start bleeding and eventually become infected. The most common type of trauma is the dog scratching or biting its own warts. In extremely rare cases, instead of resolving, warts may evolve into cancerous tumors.
Warts vs. Sebaceous Gland Adenomas
An untrained eye can easily mistake sebaceous gland adenomas for warts. Sebaceous gland adenomas are wart-like masses that can pop up anywhere on the dog’s body. Their diameter ranges between 0.5 to 2 centimeters and their surface is smoother than the warts’ surface.
Sebaceous gland adenomas are in fact benign tumors of the oil glands. Since they are more likely to develop in older dogs (over 5 years of age), sebaceous gland adenomas are popularly known as "old dog warts." Once again, it should be well-noted that these are not real warts.
How Are Dog Warts Treated?
There are not many scientifically proven treatment options for warts. However, most described treatments work. This is because, more often than not, warts resolve on their own (without treatment) in 1 to 3 months. Therefore, most veterinarians recommend leaving the warts alone and waiting for them to naturally go away. However, there are certain cases in which warts warrant medical treatment. Those cases include:
- Dog warts that persist for longer than 3 months
- Dog warts that interfere with the dog’s normal functioning
- Dog warts that are bleeding, infected, ulcerated or causing pain
- Cases of dogs on medically necessary immunosuppressive drugs
- Cases of dogs suffering from an a non-treatable immunosuppressive disease.
Generally speaking, there are several treatment options for warts in dogs, following is a list:
- Interferon alpha
Interferon alpha is drug extracted from white blood cells. It helps the dog overcome the warts by stimulating the immune system.
Imiquimod is a drug from the group of immune response modifiers. It helps by speeding up the warts’ regression phase. Sadly, it is only efficient in certain types of warts.
Cimetidin is an antacid used for treating warts in humans. There is no scientific evidence that support its efficacy in dogs.
Azithromycin is an antibiotic commonly used for treating warts. However, its efficacy is not proven.
One wart can be removed and used to prepare an individual vaccine. The use of vaccines is still in its experimental stage.
- Surgical removal, cryotherapy or laser treatment
These approaches are suitable for warts that persist for longer than 3 months and for warts that interfere with the dog’s normal functioning.
Should You Crush Dog Warts?
Should you crush dog warts? Crushing warts is a special technique some veterinarians use for treating warts. In the past, crushing was the treatment of choice for warts. The goal is to stimulate the host’s immune system and induce an immediate local immune response.
Should you crush dog warts then? The crushing should only be performed by a veterinarian and not at home because it can be painful and uncomfortable. It should be noted that although efficient, crushing does not always yield fast healing.
Did you know? Although dogs can get warts from other dogs, you cannot contract warts from your dog, just like your dog cannot contract warts form you.
About the Author
Dr. Ivana Crnec is a graduate of the University Sv. Kliment Ohridski’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola, Republic of Macedonia.
She currently practices as a veterinarian in Bitola and is completing her postgraduate studies in the Pathology of Domestic Carnivores at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Zagreb, Croatia.