The wart-like lesions that appear around their mouth and face region of dogs is due to the papilloma virus. Typically, it affects young puppies and is quite common. The good news is that papilloma in puppies is harmless, pain-free and will disappear quickly.
Generally, papilloma in puppies doesn’t need treatment as most cases will be resolved in two to three months. The important thing to remember is that while the lesions are present, the puppies are potentially shedding the papilloma virus.
The disease is quite contagious so when puppies play together, mouthing each other and playing with each other’s toys, the disease is spread. Visible lesions mean that active virus is probably present.
Safe for humans
While viruses like COVID-19 are zoonotic—they can be spread from animals to humans—the papilloma virus is not transmittable to people. It’s very species-specific. In fact, there has never been any indication that any strain of the papilloma virus is transmittable from dogs to humans. While normal hygiene procedures should be maintained when handling your puppy, you are perfectly safe from the virus.
Likewise, the virus is not geographically specific; it can infect a dog living in any region. Young dogs become infected due to the fact that their immune system is not fully competent. Once the puppy is full-grown, its immune system will have the ability to deal with the virus properly.
Occasionally, papilloma will affect older dogs that have a compromised immune system or are on drugs that suppress their immune system.
Despite all we know about papilloma in puppies, pet owners can be very insistent that we treat their dog. Unfortunately, if we remove the wart lesions, more will just come up. Provided there’s no underlying illness, treatment is unnecessary—it’s really just a matter of simply letting it heal by itself.
The only treatment that may have a positive effect is the application of a new type of topical cream. They are similar to creams used on humans that help boost the immune response to inflammation. This assists in the destruction of the virus and may get rid of the warts more quickly.
If there are indications that something else is going on, then a biopsy can be used to identify a papilloma or to differentiate it from something that might require more extensive treatment.
Occasionally, the lesions get infected with the normal bacteria that lives in the mouth. In that situation, we would use antibiotics as a secondary treatment for the infection. It’s not going to do anything about the actual warts but the antibacterials will combat the secondary infections.
While the lesions don’t look great, the puppies aren’t even aware they’re present. If the dog has an unusually high number of lesions, it might be a little uncomfortable but usually they are oblivious to the whole thing. In all honesty, it’s more concerning to the owners than for the puppies.
While your puppy might look a little different for a while, everything will be resolved and disappear in no more than two months.