canine oral papillomas

You have a young, happy, healthy pup, or so you think… all of the sudden, though, your vaccinated dog has these little ugly growths on their lips. Before you panic and assume the worst, let Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital quell your fears. Many oral growths in young dogs are actually canine oral papillomas, and they are typically nothing to be worried about. 

You Got the Look

Canine oral papillomas have a pretty distinct appearance. They tend to be small, round skin tumors that resemble warts. They usually have what’s called a fimbriated surface, with little fronds growing off of them similar to a sea anemone. They are often gray to flesh colored. 

Canine oral papillomas most often appear in and around the mouth and can sometimes be found around the eyes or other places. They tend to arise in groups rather than as a solitary lesion.

Most often oral papillomas occur in young patients but can occur in dogs of any age. It is impossible to tell for certain what a growth might be just by looking, so it is important to biopsy in cases of abnormal behavior of the mass or a non-classical patient. 

The Pathology of Canine Oral Papillomas 

Canine oral papillomas are actually caused by a virus. CPV-1 (Canine papilloma virus-1) is transmitted by direct contact with another infected pet or with items in the environment like bedding and water bowls that were in contact with the infected pet.

The virus enters the body through damaged skin and begins to rear its warty heads about one-to-two months (possibly longer) after the exposure occurs. It can be quite contagious between dogs, but thankfully cannot be spread to humans or other species. 

Most often dogs who are affected by mouth warts are very young dogs with immature immune systems or those who are otherwise immunosuppressed. While dogs cannot become reinfected with the same strain of papilloma virus, there are several strains. 

Our team tends to see dogs who frequent doggy daycares and dog parks most affected as these pets are likely in the highest contact with other pets. Warts are no reason to keep your dog away from their playmates, though, as they are often harmless albeit ugly. They typically go away on their own after a few months.

Best Papillomas Treatment

Most canine oral papillomas resolve without our help. Papillomas treatment may be required in some cases, though. Instances where we might intervene include:

  • Papillomas in an irritating area
  • Secondary infection
  • Not resolving by 3 months
  • Abnormal appearance/spread

Sometimes treatment is as simple as administering an antibiotic to get rid of infection or surgically removing the lesion to eliminate irritation and/or confirm the diagnosis. 

For more widespread issues, a few treatment options exist. Because the warts are the result of a virus, stimulating the immune system can be helpful. Crushing a few of the growth can be helpful. A topical medication called imiquimod can also be used to help attack the virus. Sometimes the antibiotic azithromycin can speed the course of the disease process. 

There have been some experiments with a vaccination for this condition, although at this point the risks seem to outweigh the benefits.

Canine oral papillomas can be pretty ugly, but fortunately their bark is often worse than their bite. Don’t hesitate to contact us, though, if you think your pet might be affected. We will want to check things out so that we can be sure what we are dealing with.