The Canine Papilloma Virus, also known anecdotally as “puppy warts” or “doggy chickenpox” is a benign virus that presents as raised, mushroom-like warts appearing in and around a dog’s mouth. Warts can be found on an infected dog’s lips, gums, tongue, pallet and throat. Typically, the warts are benign and because there is no treatment for them, will fall off on their own in 1 to 4 weeks. In rare but severe instances, the warts may cause trouble swallowing, in which case they would need to be removed surgically by a Veterinarian. In extremely rare instances, the warts may turn cancerous; this is exceedingly rare.
The canine papilloma virus is also referred to in nonscientific circles as “puppy warts” because it typically affects dogs under the age of two since their immune systems are not fully developed yet. It can also affect older dogs that are immunocompromised. The virus does not usually present in dogs with robust and mature immune systems.
The virus’s second anecdotal name, “doggy chickenpox” came into existence because the virus is extremely contagious, can be transmitted through very limited contact, and, as mentioned previously, usually affects younger dogs. One should also be aware that the virus can lay latent and therefore undetectable so that a dog could potentially be a carrier of the virus and therefore be transmitting it to other dogs unbeknownst to you or anyone else.
The virus is spread by the sharing of dog toys, dog bowls, or even small amounts of mouth to mouth contact between dogs. If your dog is under age 2 and he/she goes to daycare or the dog park, greets other dogs on the street or out walking with you (especially if you have a dog that likes to say “hi” by licking the face and mouth of another dog) or is boarded or kenneled with other dogs, you should be doing a routine check of their mouth. Unfortunately, though the virus is benign, a dog presenting with warts cannot attend daycare, and should not interact with other dogs until the warts have fully cleared.
For further information on the Canine Papilloma Virus please see here: http://www.pethealthnetwork.com/dog-health/dog-diseases-conditions-a-z/oral-papilloma-virus-dogs
For photos to see how the virus presents and so you know what to look for, please see here: http://www.vet.bc.ca/oral-papillomas.pml