All About Dog Warts: Yes, They’re a Thing!

6 min read
6 min read

Updated - May 25th, 2023

Have you noticed an abnormal skin growth on your pup’s paw? Or how about a red bump on their snout? It could be a wart. 

Dog warts are small skin growths typically found on a dog’s lips and inside their mouth – and sometimes on their eyelids, on their paws, or in their throat. Also known as papillomas, dog warts are rarely serious and not a threat to your dog’s health. Still, papillomas are common among younger dogs, and these benign growths can lead to secondary infections if they become inflamed or infected.

Key Points:

  • Dog warts are small skin growths typically found on a dog’s lips, eyelids, paws, or inside their mouth and throat. 
  • These warts are caused by canine papilloma virus (CPV), a contagious virus that affects dogs through direct contact, like sniffing or licking another dog’s face at the dog park or sharing a water bowl with another infected dog.
  • Any dog can develop dog warts, but these papillomas almost always form on dogs younger than two years old since their immune systems have not properly developed.

Here, we outline everything you need to know about dog warts, including detection, treatment, and prevention. 

What do dog warts look like?

Dog warts are typically easy to spot. These lesions tend to resemble a small brain or head of cauliflower, are dark in color, and can be round, oval, or irregularly shaped. Directly attached to your dog’s skin, they appear suddenly and sometimes form in clusters. They tend to resemble skin tags!

According to Dr. Linda Simon, veterinarian at Senior Tail Waggers, dog warts don’t cause dogs any pain or discomfort. “However, if the papilloma snags on something, it can bleed and become infected,” she says. “Until it heals, this will cause some irritation to your dog.” If a wart forms on an area prone to friction, it may break open and bleed. If a wart forms inside your pup’s mouth, they may develop bad breath and have trouble eating, breathing, or swallowing. 

What causes dog warts?

Canine papilloma virus (CPV) is a highly contagious virus that affects dogs through direct contact, like sniffing, licking, or sharing a water bowl with another infected dog. CPV can enter the body through a break in the skin, such as cuts, or the soft, moist skin (mucus membranes) found inside a dog’s mouth. It can also be transmitted through tick, flea, or mosquito bites. 

Once the virus has entered its host (the dog), it has an incubation period of up to two months before any symptoms appear. When papillomas appear, they tend to rapidly increase in size over the course of several weeks. 

Any dog can develop dog warts, but these papilloma’s almost always form on dogs younger than two years old since their immune systems have not fully developed. Older dogs have matured immune systems that can fight off CPV before it leads to physical skin abnormalities. Dog warts are also more commonly found on dogs who spend a lot of time around other dogs, and those that are immunosuppressed. Some dog breeds are even at an increased risk of developing dog warts, such as Cocker Spaniels, Miniature Schnauzers, Pugs, and Shar-Peis

As soon as a dog has become infected with CPV, they become contagious to other dogs, but not other animals or people. “Warts are very common in dogs and shouldn’t cause pet parents any alarm,” says Dr. Simon. 

How veterinarians diagnose dog warts  

Your veterinarian will likely diagnose your pup with warts based on their physical appearance. On the off chance that their diagnosis isn’t clear, they may order a fine needle aspiration. This is when a small amount of fluid or tissue is suctioned from the growth with a needle and syringe to be examined under a microscope. Your veterinarian will search for any cell changes or abnormalities. In severe cases, your veterinarian may order a biopsy to remove a piece or the entirety of the growth to be examined microscopically. 

How do I get rid of canine warts? 

Most cases of dog warts don’t require a trip to the vet, but it’s still a good idea to keep an eye on them. Unless they become irritated, infected, or cause discomfort, dog warts typically don’t require medical treatment. Most of the time these papillomas regress on their own after six or eight weeks as the dog’s immune system learns to fight the virus.  

If your dog does need medical intervention, one surgical removal option involves crushing warts with a surgical tool to stimulate the immune system to fight CPV. Your dog will be sedated during this procedure, and their warts will typically heal within a few weeks. Other dog wart removal options involve removing the lesions with a scalpel or even freezing them, but these are only for rare cases. 

Recovery and care 

It’s extremely important to prevent your dog from licking, scratching, itching, or biting the papillomas on their skin. Any sort of contact can cause inflammation, infection, bleeding, and further discomfort. If there was surgical intervention, the incision site should be kept clean – try to prevent your dog from picking at it, too. 


Dogs contract canine warts through contact with another infected dog – whether that’s at the dog park, groomer’s, or even at home from their pet sibling. Ultimately, the only preventative measure against canine warts is keeping your dog away from infected dogs. Give their bedding, toys, food, and water bowls a good wash, and consider staying away from other dogs for a few weeks as the lesions heal. 

The bottom line 

It’s normal for pet parents to worry when they spot a mysterious growth on their dog’s skin – but with dog warts, you can rest assured that your pup isn’t in any harm. Warts on dogs are extremely common and generally heal on their own. With proper recovery and care, your dog will be back to normal and running around the dog park again in no time. 

Dog Warts FAQs

Are warts harmful to dogs?

Also known as papillomas, dog warts are small, benign growths that are very common in dogs. Unless they become inflamed or irritated in any way, they’re generally not harmful and don’t require a trip to the vet. 

What causes a dog wart?

Dog warts develop when dogs are exposed to the canine papilloma virus through contact with another dog. The virus inserts its genetic information into the host’s DNA and disturbs the normal cell division process, causing the cells to divide abnormally and more frequently, while simultaneously suppressing genes that slow down cell growth. 

What do canine warts look like?

Warts have a variety of appearances but are typically small and abnormally shaped. They can be pink or darker in color and often look like small brains or cauliflowers. 

Are dog warts contagious? 

Dog warts are extremely contagious among dogs, but not between dogs and other animals or humans. It’s also important to note that while humans can develop warts, the viruses that cause human warts are different strains than the one that infects dogs. To prevent the spread, it’s best to keep your dog away from other dogs until the growths are gone. 

Did you know?

  • Dog warts can grow up to three centimeters in length. 
  • Warts are extremely common in dogs. Although any dog can develop them, they’re more common in dogs who are immunosuppressed. 

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  • https://www.merckvetmanual.com/digestive-system/diseases-of-the-mouth-in-small-animals/papillomas-in-dogs
  • https://firstvet.com/us/articles/papilloma-virus-in-dogs-and-cats

Christina Rasmussen

Christina Rasmussen

Christina is a copywriter and a loving cat mom to an adorable Bombay named Zetta.
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