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Everything You Need To Know About Puppy Warts

Growing up, I never heard of such a thing…dogs getting warts? But then, my dog was a “backyard dog” that did not go to doggy daycare or the dog park because they didn’t exist back then.

Having worked at a dog daycare, however, I have seen just how gross and disgusting “puppy warts” can get. I have also heard every theory under the sun about how dogs get them and how to treat them.

Wanting to know the truth, I asked Dr. Brittney Barton of HEAL Veterinary Hospital all about those gross growths.

Source: Photo courtesy of Dr. Jan Bellows
Source: Photo courtesy of Dr. Jan Bellows

What Is a Puppy Wart?

“Puppy warts” (so named because they are normally seen in dogs under 2) are viral papillomas caused by the papillomavirus. This means they are same type of virus that causes things like cold sores, warts, and many types of sexually transmitted infections in humans. However, we cannot contract the doggy version (or vice versa), which is great news – have you ever seen a cluster of puppy warts on a dog’s tongue? YUCK, talk about a date killer.

The warts can appear anywhere on the dogs muzzle, lips, tongue, cheek, and even down into their throat. Some dogs get one, others get many; this depends on the dogs’ immune system. “Some dogs’ immune systems recognize the viral infection early and can fight it off before the warts appear,” explains Dr. Barton.

How Is It Spread?

As the name implies, viral papillomas are spread orally. This means if your dog touch the nose or mouth of another dog with the virus, or shares a toy with him, she may get it too.

What Dogs Are At Risk?

Dr. Barton explains that due to their low immune system, it’s most common in dogs under 2. However, if you have an older dog that has just started at a new dog daycare or dog park, they could still get the virus, regardless of age.

Also, if your adult dog has a lower immune system them normal, they may be more susceptible to it than a dog with a strong one.

When Are They Contagious?

If you find a wart on your dog, should you restrict their interaction with other dogs or is it too late?

“Some viruses are infective BEFORE signs of illness appear,” explains Dr. Barton. “Think about herpes virus in humans.  Cold sores can be transmitted from human to human just before the cold sore appears.”

So basically the short answer is it depends and there is no way to really know which strain of the virus your dog has or if they even have it until the wart appears.

Puppy Wart Treatment

“In most cases the dogs’ immune system eventually clears the warts and the infection without any intervention,” Dr. Barton says, “However, this can take a while and in some cases of an extremely large number of wart formation, the pet can have difficulty eating or secondary infections. There is thought that crushing a few warts and removing them can help improve the pet’s immune system response to the infection- thus clearing it faster.”

Although rare, I have heard of a dog that had so many puppy warts, it started to have problems breathing and swallowing, because they were inside the muzzle and throat. So, it’s definitely a good idea to get your dog check by the vet, ESPECIALLY if they are having difficulty eating, drinking, or breathing.


The only way to prevent them is to avoid possible exposure, which is pretty much impossible if dog’s are contagious before they show signs, no way to know if dog is carrying the virus or not.

More information on puppy warts can be found in here.

About the Author

Based in Tustin, Calif., animal lover Kristina N. Lotz is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) and works as a full time trainer. She also owns her own custom pet products company, A Fairytail House, where she makes personalized collars, leashes, beds, keepsake pillows and blankets, and anything else your imagine can think up. In her spare time, she trains and competes in herding, agility, obedience, rally, and conformation with her Shetland Sheepdogs. She smartly married a Veterinary Technician, who helps keep the fur kids happy and healthy, and provides a quick resource for articles.

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Written by Kristina Lotz
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