May 05 , 2023
Should You Get Your Pet’s Warts Removed?
Warts can be unsightly, and your first instinct may be to have them removed. However, in most cases, warts are harmless and can be left alone, unless they’re affecting your dog’s quality of life.
Does your dog have small bumps on their skin that resemble cauliflower? Don’t panic, it’s likely just a wart, which in most cases are harmless and can be left alone without issue — with a few exceptions. The medical term for warts is papillomas, named after the papilloma virus that causes these skin and mouth lesions in dogs.
It’s assumed that virtually all dogs will be exposed to papilloma viruses at some point during their lives, but in most cases the dog’s immune system is able to keep them in check. If your dog isn’t 100% healthy, has recently been stressed or is older and their immune system isn’t functioning optimally, this is when these opportunistic viruses flourish and warts may appear. Generally, this occurs in three types of dogs:
- Young dogs that develop outbreaks of oral papillomatosis
- Immunosuppressed dogs, especially those that have taken corticosteroids like prednisone or other drugs that suppress the immune system
- Older dogs
You Do — and Don’t — Need to Worry About Transmission
There’s good news and bad news when it comes to the transmission of papilloma viruses. The good news is that canine warts do not affect other species, so you and other members of your family can’t be infected — and neither can your kitties. The bad news is that the viruses can spread between dogs via direct contact, including licking each other, playing together or sharing toys.
In the case of dogs with oral papillomatosis. they should be separate from other dogs until all of the lesions have cleared so they don’t spread to other canine members of your family. Oral papillomatosis typically occurs in young dogs under 2 years of age, as their immune systems haven’t yet matured, or in dogs that are immunoglobulin A (IgA) deficient.
Often, oral warts spontaneously regress after a few months once the dog’s immune system mounts an effective response that resolves the viral outbreak. However, in some cases oral papillomatosis can become severe, leading to hundreds of warts in the mouth that make eating and drinking extremely painful.
If your dog has severe oral papillomatosis, which most veterinarians can easily recognized by the classic appearance of the warts in their mouth, their immunoglobulin levels should be checked immediately and oral immunotherapy and nutritional therapy should be started to assist their body in fighting off the papilloma virus and other pathogens.
Topical medications can also be used to help boost immune-mediated inflammation, which facilitates destruction of the virus by the body. The antibiotic azithromycin has also been proven to help resolve oral lesions within 15 days (just make sure to institute a microbiome recovery program if instituted). High potency (prescription-strength) Thuja, a homeopathic remedy, is equally effective, in my experience.
Warts Don’t Always Need To Be Removed
Warts can be unsightly, and your first instinct may be to get them removed from your pup. However, in most cases they’re benign (and rarely cancerous), and can be safely left alone unless they’re causing a quality-of-life issue. For instance, if your dog persistently chews or licks at the wart, causing it to bleed, or it’s located between your dog’s toes, causing them to limp, it may need to be surgically removed.
Fortunately, warts do not continue growing endlessly; they reach a certain size and then stop. If a bump on your dog’s body is continually growing or changing, it could be a sign of a more serious problem and you should see your veterinarian right away. In rare cases, warts can turn into which continue to get bigger and bigger. A fine-needle aspiration of the growth can be used to confirm, definitely, if a bump is, in fact, a wart.
Generally speaking, however, I recommend avoiding any unnecessary surgeries on your pet, including wart removal, unless it’s interfering with your dog’s quality of life. This is also true for many other benign lumps and bumps that appear on dog’s bodies, especially as they get older. As a rule of thumb, when you find a growth of any kind on your dog, monitor it. If it is growing or changing quickly, it's best to see a veterinarian sooner rather than later.
Warts Are a Sign to Tend to Your Dog’s Immune Function
Rather than worrying about removal, if your dog has warts recognize that this is a visual reflection of what’s happening inside your dog’s body in terms of immunologic health. Dr. Richard Pitcairn, world-renowned expert and educator in veterinarian homo-therapy is among those who regards warts as a measure of a dog’s immune function.
Even if you get the warts removed, the virus is still inside your dog’s body, and unless you address the immune system dysfunction that allowed the virus to flourish, the warts are likely to come back, albeit in different places than before.
Anything that stresses your dog’s immune system, including consuming a highly-refined diet, may contribute to the appearance of warts. I strongly recommend discontinuing ultra processed pet foods if your pet is afflicted with a growing number of warts: feeding only fast food isn’t going to assist your pet’s immune system in any way.
Papillomatosis may also be linked to vaccines, so I recommend eliminating and reducing unnecessary vaccines for your dog and ask your vet to perform vaccine antibody titersinstead.
Other steps can also boost yr dogs immune system and in so doing decrease their risk of warts — or help clear up any that already exist. In addition to a fresh food diet,
Dr Karen Becker