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Canine Oral Papilloma Virus 101

Discovering a bump on your dog’s skin can be quite alarming, and there are many possible explanations for lumps and growths. If you notice clusters of warts appearing on your dog’s lips, gums, and tongue, canine or papilloma virus may be to blame.

What should you know about viral papillomas?
How do you treat them?
When should you worry? 

canine oral papilloma virus shiba inu What is canine oral papilloma virus?

Canine oral papilloma virus is an infection that causes warts to grow in and around dogs’ mouths and throats. These warts can be smooth, but they frequently have a cauliflower-like texture and usually appear in clusters.

Papilloma virus is most common in puppies under two years old whose immune systems are still developing. Older dogs who are immunocompromised from illness or medications can also be vulnerable to infection. 

What causes oral papillomas in dogs? 

Oral papillomas, or warts in the mouth, are caused by a DNA virus called Canine Papillomavirus Type-1. While the warts are usually benign, they are quite contagious to other dogs.

Papilloma virus is spread when an infected dog’s saliva comes into contact with the mucus membranes in another pup’s mouth. It’s often transmitted through shared toys and water bowls and through the normal licks and kisses dogs exchange when they greet each other. 

Because it’s spread through routine contact, it’s very difficult to prevent your dog from being exposed to the virus. 

Can humans catch papilloma virus from dogs?

No. Though it’s easily passed from dog to dog, canine papilloma virus is species-specific. Pet parents can’t contract warts from their pups, and other household pets like cats and rabbits aren’t vulnerable to infection either.

What are the symptoms of oral papilloma virus?

Dogs are often completely unbothered by milder cases of papilloma virus, but severe cases can be uncomfortable. Depending on the number of warts and where they are located, they may cause your pup pain or even difficulty chewing and swallowing. 

Keep an eye out for:canine oral papilloma virus smiling dog

  • Signs of infection, like bad breath
  • Oral swelling
  • Oral bleeding
  • Trouble with eating or drinking

How is canine papilloma virus treated?

Healthy dogs are usually able to mount a successful immune response to oral papilloma virus. The infection often goes away on its own within five months, but some dogs may need help to clear the virus or keep it from recurring. 

Pups with immune deficiencies or severe cases of warts may need antiviral medication. Your vet can examine your dog to determine if the growths are likely to disappear over time, or if they should be surgically removed. 

Is canine papilloma virus dangerous? 

Though papilloma virus is usually benign, it can occasionally become malignant (cancerous). Pet parents can also mistake other oral cancers for papillomas, so attempting to diagnose your pup yourself is risky. 

It’s a good idea to get a medical opinion on any warts, growths, or lesions you discover. Your veterinarian can examine your dog and biopsy any warts to determine the best course of treatment.