Papillomas (Warts)

Papilloma is the doctor’s word for warts. A wart is a benign tumor projecting from the surface of the skin. Warts can be found anywhere on the body and at any age. They can vary in size, shape and in color and are characterized by an irregular surface. Some warts will bleed easily if they are traumatized. Depending on the individual, some pets will have many warts while others may never have even one.

As is the case with most benign growths, warts do not spread internally or result in death. In the special case of venereal warts, there is a virus that is the cause of this condition. In this case, the warts will spread by contact (contagious) but will usually disappear spontaneously on their own after approximately three weeks time. This characteristic is not true with other types of warts as far as we know. Certain breeds and individuals as well as older pets are more likely to develop warts.

The diagnosis of a papilloma is usually made in the exam room. If the characteristic appearance is not present then an excisional biopsy can be taken for confirmation. It is rare that a wart will undergo malignant transformation and turn cancerous with time. The pet that has many warts is at no greater risk than the pet that has only one wart.

If treatment is elected, the wart(s) can be removed by electrocautery, a scalpel blade, or by a laser unit often without a general anesthetic. Usually a local anesthetic is infused around the wart before it is removed. Sometimes a tranquilizer is needed to keep the pet still while the wart is being removed. It is important to remove all of the abnormal tissue otherwise the wart may grow back. Systemic antibiotics are not needed, however, a topical salve may be recommended. No bandage is applied in most cases, especially if the laser unit is used, as the wart removal will often stop any itching caused by the growth.

Many pets develop warts and have no trouble with them. If the wart itches, bleeds or is unsightly to the owner it can be safely and relatively easily removed. Consult with your veterinarian if you have any concerns.

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