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Oral Papillomas in Dogs: Everything You Need to Know

Oral papillomas or warts in a dog’s mouth can be a source of confusion and worry for many pet owners.

We’ll demystify this condition, providing all the info that you need to understand and manage this common canine health issue.

wart in dog mouth

What are Oral Papillomas in Dogs and What Causes Them?

Oral papillomas, commonly known as warts, are small, benign tumors that occur in a dog’s mouth, lips, tongue, or throat.

They are usually cauliflower-like in appearance and can be singular or multiple. These warts are caused by the canine oral papillomavirus.

According to the American Kennel Club, the virus is species-specific, meaning it only affects dogs and cannot be transmitted to humans or other pets.

Are Oral Papillomas in Dogs Common?

Yes, oral papillomas are relatively common in dogs, especially younger ones with less mature immune systems or dogs with immune system disorders.

While any breed of dog can get an oral papilloma, it’s commonly seen in breeds that have a lot of skin folds and wrinkles, such as Bulldogs and Shar Peis, due to the increased surface area where the virus can take hold.

How do Dogs Get Warts and Papillomas?

The oral papillomavirus is highly contagious and can be easily transmitted from one dog to another through direct contact.

As PetMD highlights, your dog could pick up the virus from shared toys, water bowls, or during play dates with infected dogs. Also, dogs with open sores or wounds in the mouth are more susceptible to the virus.

How to Identify an Oral Papilloma?

Oral papillomas typically present as small, round, cauliflower-like growths inside a dog’s mouth or around the lips. They are usually white to grey in color.

If you notice any unusual growths in your dog’s mouth or changes in eating habits, it’s essential to consult a vet.

The Veterinary Centers of America recommends a thorough oral examination by a professional to confirm the presence of papillomas.

Should Owners Worry About a Papilloma in Their Dog’s Mouth?

While it can be disconcerting to find a wart in your dog’s mouth, most oral papillomas are not a cause for concern.

They’re usually harmless and often resolve on their own once the dog’s immune system mounts a response.

However, it’s always a good idea to get any new growths checked by a vet to rule out other more serious conditions.

Standard Treatments for Oral Papillomas in Dogs

Treatment for oral papillomas often depends on the dog’s overall health, age, and the severity of the condition. In many cases, vets opt for a “wait and see” approach, allowing the dog’s immune system to clear the virus.

If the papillomas become problematic, causing pain, difficulty eating, or excessive growth, the vet may recommend surgical removal or other treatments like cryotherapy (freezing the warts off) or laser removal.

Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine provides more in-depth information on treatment.

Can Owners Treat Oral Papillomas at Home?

While oral papillomas generally resolve on their own, home treatments should only be attempted under the guidance of a veterinarian.

Some vets might recommend boosting the dog’s immune system with a healthy diet, supplements, or certain over-the-counter canine wart removal creams.

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However, never attempt to remove a papilloma at home, as this could cause pain and potential infection.

How Long Do Oral Papillomas Last in Dogs?

The duration of oral papillomas can vary greatly depending on the dog’s immune response.

According to the American Kennel Club, most cases will resolve on their own within 1 to 5 months as the dog’s immune system learns to fight off the virus.

So yes, in many cases warts in a dogs mouth do go away on their own.

Are Papillomas in Dogs Dangerous?

Oral papillomas in dogs are typically benign and pose little threat to the dog’s health. However, a small percentage may become malignant or cancerous.

Also, in rare cases, a large number of papillomas can cause discomfort, impede eating, or lead to secondary bacterial infections.

As always, any noticeable changes in your dog’s oral health should be checked by a vet to ensure there’s no serious underlying issue.


Let’s run through some additional FAQs that might not have been addressed above.

  1. Are there vaccines available that can prevent oral papillomas in dogs?
    • At the moment there isn’t a commercially available vaccine specifically to prevent oral papillomas in dogs. However, the field of veterinary medicine evolves rapidly, and it’s advisable to consult with your vet for the most recent updates.
  2. What specific methods do veterinarians use to diagnose oral papillomas in dogs?
    • Vets typically diagnose oral papillomas based on their characteristic appearance during an oral examination. In some cases, if the growth is atypical or if the diagnosis is uncertain, the vet might take a biopsy of the growth for histopathological examination.
  3. What symptoms or changes should I look for to determine if an oral papilloma is causing distress or harm to my dog?
    • Signs that an oral papilloma might be causing distress include difficulty eating or swallowing, excessive drooling, pawing at the mouth, or changes in behavior such as lethargy or loss of appetite. If the wart becomes large or infected, you might also notice signs of discomfort or foul odor.
  4. Is it common for older dogs to develop oral papillomas, or is it primarily a condition seen in younger dogs?
    • While oral papillomas can occur in dogs of any age, they are most commonly seen in younger dogs with less mature immune systems. That said, older dogs with compromised immune systems may also develop oral papillomas.
  5. What steps can I take to reduce my dog’s risk of contracting oral papillomas?
    • To reduce your dog’s risk, limit their direct contact with dogs known to have the virus. Be cautious about shared toys, water dishes, or bedding at dog parks or kennels. Regular veterinary check-ups can also help in early identification and management of the condition.
  6. Can untreated oral papillomas lead to more serious health complications in dogs?
    • While most oral papillomas are benign and resolve on their own, a small percentage can become malignant. Additionally, if papillomas become numerous or large, they can interfere with a dog’s ability to eat or breathe, leading to weight loss or respiratory distress. Infected warts can also lead to secondary bacterial infections.
  7. Do oral papillomas cause physical discomfort or pain in dogs, or are they largely asymptomatic?
    • Many dogs with oral papillomas show no signs of discomfort or pain, especially if the warts are small and few. However, if the warts become large, numerous, or infected, they can cause discomfort, pain, and difficulty eating.
  8. Once a dog has had oral papillomas, is there a risk of them recurring in the future?
    • Once a dog’s immune system has cleared the virus, the dog typically develops immunity and the papillomas should not recur. However, each strain of the virus is different, so exposure to a different strain can potentially lead to new papillomas.
  9. Does the environment my dog lives in (e.g., humid or dry, indoor or outdoor) impact the likelihood of oral papilloma development?
    • At the moment, there’s no specific evidence linking a dog’s living environment to the development of oral papillomas. The main risk factor is exposure to the papillomavirus itself, which is typically spread through direct contact with an infected dog or shared items.
  10. Does maintaining good oral hygiene for my dog help prevent the development of oral papillomas?
    • Good oral hygiene can help maintain overall oral health in dogs and can potentially reduce the likelihood of secondary infections if oral papillomas are present. However, good oral hygiene on its own can’t directly prevent the development of oral papillomas, as they are caused by a viral infection. Regular veterinary dental check-ups and cleanings can contribute to a healthier mouth and help identify any oral health issues early on.


Oral papillomas in dogs can be worrisome for pet owners, but understanding the condition can help alleviate those worries.

Remember that while these warts are common, especially in younger dogs, they’re generally not harmful and often resolve on their own.

Regular vet check-ups can help identify any oral health issues early on and ensure that your four-legged friend remains in the best possible health


The advice given in this article is for educational purposes only and does not constitute professional advice in any context. Before making any decisions that may affect the health and/or safety of your dog, you should always consult a trained veterinarian in your local area. For the FULL disclaimer Visit Here

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