Puppy Warts 101: What, How, and Ew!

Our dogs are social like us. They walk the streets with us, they sniff everything from the bark on a tree to a flower in the yard, and they leave their mark as they trot around town. This means that dogs, like us, are exposed to different germs and bacteria that float around. This isn’t a bad thing as it helps build up immunity to certain environmental elements but it does mean that like us, they can catch something. If your dog frequents the local dog park, walks the aisles of a pet store with you, goes to training classes, or boards now and then, then she’s exposed to different germs. One virus is Canine Papilloma Virus, more commonly known as puppy warts.

What is Canine Papilloma Virus (COPV)?

Imagine chicken pox for dogs, it is a virus that can cause a few warts or just one to appear on your dog but once your dog is exposed, the likelihood of ever having it again is slim to none. The warts are typically benign, or not dangerous, and often appear on the lips or chin area of a dog. They may look like a little piece of shriveled skin or cauliflower, but others may be more capsule-shaped. Some warts may appear on the gum lines. Many daycares and boarding facilities will check your dog’s mouth when you drop them off to see if there’s any signs of puppy warts because they are contagious to any dog that hasn’t had them.

Why is the virus referred to as puppy warts?

COPV is commonly called puppy warts because the virus tends to affect dogs who have not been exposed, usually young dogs and those who have less effective immune systems. This isn’t to say that older dogs can’t get them, but the likelihood is lower. It’s thought that dogs pass the virus by touching noses or somehow ingesting each other’s saliva either through play or picking the same toys.

What should I do if my dog has them?

Most vets may tell you to wait it out, but if the warts have been present for a while and there are a great number of them, then you may have to talk about removing them. The warts can get in the way of eating and cause discomfort. It’s not easy to detect the virus since it takes a few days after your dog has come into contact for the warts to start appearing. It’s not a serious illness and it almost seems like a normal “rite of passage” for a puppy before reaching adulthood. Some pet care services may ask that you keep your dog home till the warts clear up and others may not depending on the severity.

The best way to try and prevent puppy warts is to make sure your dog is on a good diet that has the right balance of vitamins, protein, fat, and other essential nutrients that will help your puppy be a strong, healthy, active, and happy dog.