Freeze Off Dog Warts? Here’s What Vets Say

What are warts in dogs?

Warts in dogs are benign skin growths caused by the canine papillomavirus (CPV). This contagious virus causes infected cells in the skin’s epidermis layer to rapidly reproduce, forming the rough cauliflower-like lesions known as warts [1]. Though warts may appear anywhere, they are commonly seen on the head, face, ears, belly, legs and paws. Warts will initially proliferate before eventually regressing as the immune system clears the infection, which may take 1-6 months [2].

There are several strains of the canine papillomavirus, with differing surface proteins that determine which areas of skin they infect. Young dogs under age 2 are most susceptible as they lack immunity from prior exposure [3]. While unsightly and sometimes uncomfortable, warts pose little medical threat and often disappear without treatment as immunity develops.

Common locations for dog warts

Warts can appear anywhere on a dog’s body, but there are some common locations where they tend to develop. These include:

a dog with warts on its paw

Mouth and face: Warts around the mouth, lips, and nose are common. They may appear as small bumps or growths on the lips, gums, or surface of the tongue.

Paws: Warts can develop on the paw pads, between the toes, and around the nail beds. These are often callus-like growths.

Underbelly and groin: Warts may pop up on the soft skin of the underbelly, genital area, and groin.

Eyelids: Warts are sometimes found on the eyelid margins or third eyelid.

Legs: Warts can develop anywhere on the legs but are often seen around the knees, hocks, and elbows.

Although warts can technically appear anywhere, the high friction areas of a dog’s mouth, paws, and genital region seem most prone to wart growth.

Are dog warts contagious?

Yes, warts are contagious between dogs. The viruses that cause warts spread through direct contact with an infected dog. Warts most commonly spread when dogs play together and have nose-to-nose contact or contact with each other’s mouth, paws, or genital area. Puppies and dogs with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to contracting warts.

According to PetMD, dogs with warts are contagious to other dogs, but not to people, cats, or other animals. Once a dog has been infected with one type of papillomavirus, they typically develop immunity against that specific strain. But there are many strains of dog wart viruses, so dogs can get warts multiple times if exposed to different strains (PetMD).

Warts are most contagious in the early stages. As the wart grows, the risk of spreading decreases. Most warts are no longer contagious after 2-3 weeks, according to VCA Hospitals. But it’s best to keep dogs with active warts separated from other dogs during this infectious period (VCA).

Do dog warts go away on their own?

Experts state that dog warts do sometimes go away on their own within several weeks or months. This is because as the dog’s immune system recognizes the virus causing the warts, it will start to produce antibodies to fight it off. The dog’s body is able to clear the virus over time in many cases.

However, some warts can persist for longer periods. If a wart is impairing your dog’s ability to eat, breathe, or walk normally, it likely requires treatment rather than waiting for the body to resolve it on its own. Additionally, if warts spread rapidly or become very large, veterinary treatment may help speed up recovery.

According to experts, factors that determine if a dog’s warts will disappear without intervention include the dog’s overall health and immune function. Puppies and older dogs tend to take longer to clear warts than healthy adult dogs. The location of the wart also matters, as warts on haired skin tend to persist longer than those on the nose or paw pads.

In summary, many minor dog warts resolve unaided over time as the immune system fights off the virus. But treatment may be required for fast growing, widespread, or problematic warts to help the dog recover more quickly.

Freezing warts off dogs

One of the most common at-home treatments for dog warts is cryotherapy or freezing the warts off. This involves applying liquid nitrogen to the wart using a cotton-tipped applicator. The extreme cold temperature destroys the cells of the wart through freezing. This causes the wart to die off and eventually fall off on its own within 1-2 weeks

a dog having a wart frozen off

Cryotherapy is often effective for removing small, isolated warts on dogs when performed correctly. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, small warts and skin tumors are usually cured with just one cryotherapy session The success rate depends on selecting warts that are appropriate for freezing off. Large warts over 1-2 cm are less likely to be fully removed with just one session.

To perform cryotherapy at home, pet owners need access to liquid nitrogen and proper protective equipment like insulated gloves. It should be applied carefully only to the wart itself using a swirling motion for 10-30 seconds until a frozen blister forms. The area surrounding the wart needs to remain unfrozen to prevent damage to healthy skin. Aftercare involves keeping the area clean while the dead wart falls off.

Other at-home wart removal

There are a few other at-home remedies that some dog owners have found effective for removing warts on dogs. Two popular home remedies are using duct tape and apple cider vinegar.

Applying a small piece of duct tape over the wart and leaving it on for several days can help remove some warts. The tape helps cut off the wart’s blood supply, causing it to die and fall off. Replace with a fresh piece of tape every few days until the wart disappears, usually within 1-2 weeks [1].

Apple cider vinegar is another natural home remedy. Soak a cotton ball in undiluted apple cider vinegar and apply it directly to the wart. Secure it with tape and leave on overnight. The acidic properties of the vinegar can help eat away at the wart. Apply nightly until the wart goes away [2].

Some supplements like vitamin E, zinc, and Echinacea may help boost the dog’s immune system to fight off warts. But consult your vet before giving any supplements, as the proper dosages will depend on the individual dog [3].

wart removal remedies

When to see the vet

Most dog warts can be treated at home, but there are some reasons why you may want to take your dog to the vet for wart treatment:

Warts are interfering with your dog’s vision or ability to eat or drink. Warts around the eyes, nose, or mouth can obstruct your dog’s senses or make it difficult for them to function normally. Taking your dog to the vet will allow for safe and effective wart removal from sensitive areas.

Warts are bleeding, injured, or infected. Damaged or infected warts can be painful and pose a health risk if left untreated. Vets can properly clean and medicate injured warts to avoid further infection.

Warts are rapidly spreading or growing very large. Quickly spreading warts may be a sign of an underlying condition weakening your dog’s immune system. Large or spreading warts often respond better to prescription treatments.

At-home remedies have not worked after several weeks/months. If over-the-counter medications and home remedies like apple cider vinegar or coconut oil have not resolved the warts after an extended time, your vet can provide stronger medicated options.

Your dog is scratching or biting at the warts. Dogs attempting to remove warts by scratching or chewing can accidentally spread the virus to other areas. Your vet can fit your dog with an Elizabethan collar and prescribe medication to ease irritation.

You notice any unusual growths or changes in the warts. See your vet promptly if you notice any abnormal lumps within or around the warts. Vets can test suspicious growths for potential malignancies.

If your dog develops a large number of warts, has warts lasting over 2 months, or any other concerns arise, do not hesitate to schedule a vet visit. Though most warts clear up on their own, vets can expedite the removal process and keep your dog comfortable until they are wart-free.

Prescription wart treatments

If over-the-counter wart removal options don’t get rid of a dog’s warts, the next step is to consult a veterinarian about prescription treatment options. Some common prescription wart treatments for dogs include:

Immunotherapy: Medications like imiquimod cream and interferon alpha help stimulate the immune system to fight off warts. These are topical creams applied directly on the warts.

Oral medications: Drugs like cimetidine and azithromycin can help strengthen the immune system from the inside to get rid of warts. These medications are given orally.

Surgery: For isolated warts that are large or in sensitive areas, a vet may surgically remove them. This is done under anesthesia and may require stitches or a cone collar after.

Cryosurgery: Some vets can freeze off warts using liquid nitrogen. This is a professional version of home freezing treatments.

The specific prescription treatment recommended will depend on factors like the location and number of warts. In most cases, prescription treatments are highly effective at getting rid of stubborn dog warts. But they may take weeks or months to fully resolve, requiring follow-up vet appointments.

Aftercare for Frozen Off Warts

Proper aftercare is crucial for your dog’s recovery after cryosurgery to remove warts. The treated area will form blisters and eventually scab over as it heals. It’s important to keep the area clean and protected as it goes through this process.

Your vet will likely recommend using an Elizabethan collar to prevent your dog from licking or scratching at the treated wart site while it heals. Restrict activity for a few days to reduce irritation of the area. Check the spot daily for signs of infection like pus, foul odor, or redness spreading out from the wart.

a dog wearing an elizabethan collar

Gently clean around the treated wart using a saline or antiseptic wash recommended by your vet. Pat dry and apply antibiotic ointment if prescribed. Cover with a non-stick bandage or gauze. Do not try to remove any scabs that form, as this can delay healing.

Your vet will likely want to do a follow up appointment to check the wart area and make sure it is healing properly without any complications. Call your vet if you notice persistent bleeding, spreading redness, foul odor, or other signs of infection [1].

Most small warts resolve after just one freezing treatment. Larger growths may require multiple cryosurgery sessions for full removal. Follow all of your vet’s post-procedure instructions closely for proper healing and reduced risk of the wart returning [2].

Preventing future wart outbreaks

There are several steps pet owners can take to help prevent recurring warts in dogs:

Vaccination – There is a vaccine available for the canine papillomavirus that is one of the most common causes of warts in dogs. Getting your dog vaccinated as a puppy can help prevent outbreaks (source).

Hygiene – Keeping your dog’s living areas, bedding, bowls etc. clean can help stop the spread of wart viruses. Any objects touched by warts should be disinfected. Trimming nails and hair around warts can also help (source).

Diet – Feeding your dog a healthy, balanced diet supports their immune system to fight off viruses. Vitamin E, omega fatty acids and antioxidants can be especially beneficial (source).

Limit contact – Since warts are contagious, limit your dog’s contact with other dogs when they have an outbreak. Don’t let them share toys, food or water bowls (source).

Stress reduction – Stress and anxiety can weaken your dog’s immune defenses. Using pheromones, exercise, training and environmental enrichment can help reduce stress levels (source).

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