The Facts About Warts on Puppies and Dogs (Video) - Simply For Dogs
Warts on Puppies and Dogs

The Facts About Warts on Puppies and Dogs (Video)


Medically Reviewed by Veterinarian Angela Dwyer, DVM on April 16, 2018

Back in the day, when I was just knee-high to a mailbox, I once came home from school and showed my Mom something on my finger that I thought looked a little strange. “I think it might be a wart,” she said, “But we’ll wait and see.”

Sure enough, it was a wart, and then Mom and Dad and Gran and practically the whole neighborhood jumped on the “Let’s cure Ash’s wart” bandwagon. You wouldn’t believe some of the remedies they came up with: rubbing a potato slice or a piece of bacon across the offending bump, covering it with fingernail polish, tying a wet dishrag around it – but still the wart persisted.


There was even a thing Gran did that involved the phases of the moon, but I don’t remember exactly how it was supposed to work. The point is it didn’t.

And then Gran made me kiss a toad.

I’m serious.

I kissed a toad. And I didn’t like it.

Today, of course, we know that warts are caused by the papilloma virus – a nasty little critter that causes cells that are otherwise benign to group together and create unsightly growths. And we know how to treat them without the need for kissing ugly creatures or performing moonlight rituals.

What Causes Warts in Puppies?

As just stated, it’s the papilloma virus. These viruses usually occur in three groups of dogs: puppies (and here, the warts usually happen in the mouth), older dogs, and dogs that have suppressed immune systems. For more on the immune system issue, see 16 Best Immune System Boosters for Dogs. Pretty much any dog can be exposed to the virus, but it most commonly causes warts in puppies and dogs whose immune systems aren’t quite up to snuff.

Can I Get Warts from My Dog?

No. Canine warts can’t be transmitted to humans, or to other animals. Dogs can transmit warts to other dogs, though. Most commonly, warts in puppies are of the oral papillomatosis type. These warts affect the inside of the mouth (hence the term oral papillomatosis) and sometimes the eyes. They usually appear in clusters, and look a bit like cauliflower. When dogs come into contact with one another (usually by licking), the virus is spread.

Usually, these warts in puppies happen before the age of two, because at that stage, their immune system is not as developed as it is in an adult dog. The good news is that often, the condition will go away without treatment. This is because at some point, the puppy’s immune system kicks in, and tells the body, “This is not a good thing!” Then, the warts disappear.

In serious cases, though, the immune system may be so overwhelmed that it simply doesn’t get the message. This usually happens with puppies that are immunologically deficient from birth, perhaps due to not having ingested enough colostrum from the mother. If this happens, then the warts can take over and fill the mouth to the point where the puppy can’t even drink or eat without being in horrible pain.

warts in puppies and dogs

Older Dogs

As previously mentioned, papillomatosis can also occur in older dogs. The problem again goes back to the immune system. Sometimes, with age, the immune system in dogs doesn’t work as well as it should. Aging dogs might also be on medications for various conditions, and some of those medications could cause a flare-up.


It’s not exactly hard to diagnose warts on puppies and dogs; if it looks like a wart, it probably is a wart. The good news here is that most warts are not cancerous, and you don’t really have to worry about them unless they’re interfering with your dog’s quality of life. This would be, for instance, if the wart is located between your dog’s toes and making him limp, or if he’s scratching and/or chewing at it to the point where it bleeds.

What if It Isn’t a Wart?

The thing with warts is that they’re not going to get all that big. If a wart seems to be getting unusually large, though, you should see your vet. It might not be a wart; it could be a cancerous growth, and if it is, it’s never going to stop growing. Fortunately, though, these types of growths are pretty rare.

Your vet can make a proper diagnosis by removing some of the cells from the growth, and analyzing them. If no cancer is present, then it’s just a benign epithelioma – in other words, a wart.


In serious cases of warts on puppies, your veterinarian can prescribe a medication called imiquimod. It’s an immune system booster that works to destroy the virus. It’s not without potential side effects, though, so it should only be used if the dog isn’t eating.

Since this is a virus that is easily spread, you should keep your puppy away from other dogs until the condition is cleared up.

Now, a word about your vet.

My vet, Stephen, only cares about my dogs. And peripherally, me. That said, though, there are some veterinarians (and you can usually identify them by the fact that they have the same name all across the country; in other words, they’re “McVets” – part of a chain) that will try to scare the living daylights out of you by invoking the “C” word – cancer.

They’ll tell you that all skin lesions should be removed just in case! And, of course, it has nothing at all to do with the fact that these McVets make really good money cutting stuff off of your dog. But hey, you bought peace of mind, right?

Sure, but it might not be necessary. As dogs age, they can (like people) develop all manner of growths – fatty lumps, skin tags and other harmless oddities. If it’s not viral, then it’s not likely problematic.

A good vet will try to determine whether warts on puppies or dogs are an indication of an underlying issue, or something else. In other words, first they’ll take a look at the dogs’ general health. They’ll also explain to you that simply excising the warts won’t cure any underlying problem. If the issue is with the immune system, then the warts are just going to keep on coming back.


Your vet can surgically remove warts, and can also recommend medications that will keep them from recurring. If you want to try homeopathic remedies, though, there are several available.

One such remedy is Thuja 100% Pure, Best Therapeutic Grade Essential Oil – 10ml , which is available in both liquid and pellet form from Amazon. The dosage is three to six drops or pellets, and you can expect to see results in a week or two. Castor oil can also be applied to the warts in order to soften them and ease irritation. Vitamin E can work to improve your dog’s immune system; just apply it directly to the wart, rub it in gently, and do this a couple of times daily until the wart goes away. You should see results in about four weeks.

Vitamin C is also good for the immune system. It can be used to treat warts in puppies under two years at a dosage of 250 mg per day, and in dogs at 500 mg per day.


I’ve harped over and over on the importance of vaccinating your dog, most notably in Dog Vaccination Q & A. I’m of the opinion that if you don’t vaccinate your dog against rabies, distemper, parvo, and other common diseases, you’re an idiot who doesn’t deserve to own a dog.

That said, though, there has been a lot of information made available lately that suggests maybe we go for overkill with vaccinations. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t vaccinate, but that maybe once a year is a bit much. Stephen is beginning to lean more toward the side that every couple of years is all that’s really needed, and I trust his judgment. And in fact, warts in puppies are now believed to be due to over-vaccination.

Again, I can’t overemphasize that I’m not saying “Don’t vaccinate.” That would be a very bad idea. But talk to your vet and get his or her opinion as to whether you really have to do it annually. Do the benefits of annual vaccination really outweigh the possible adverse effects?

I’m not advising you one way or another on this, but it might make sense that reducing overkill when it comes to vaccinations could also reduce the development of warts on puppies and dogs.

The Final Word

Veterinarians in general operate from the assumption that all dogs have, at one time or another, been exposed to papilloma. The way of dealing with it is to ensure that the animal has a healthy immune system. A good diet can go a long way. And although you should vaccinate, maybe you don’t need to do it as often as we once thought.

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