Most warts on dogs are caused by a highly contagious virus known as the papilloma virus. The warts caused by this virus are not life threatening, though they can be unsightly and cause some discomfort for the dog, depending on their location. Warts will generally be found around the eyes, in the mouth and nose, or around the reproductive organs. Treatment varies based on location and severity of the outbreak.
Warts caused by the papilloma virus will normally come and go on their own, as there is no treatment for the virus and the dog will carry it for the duration of its life. The virus will cause an outbreak if the dog experiences a suppression of the immune system that normally keeps the virus in check. The virus will become dormant once again when the immune system has recovered, and many times the warts will disappear shortly thereafter. Many times owners and veterinarians will choose to leave warts untreated and wait for them to resolve on their own if they are causing no obvious discomfort to the dog.
Some treatments prescribed by veterinarians are aimed at the root cause of the problem: a sluggish immune system. Some veterinarians use a process that produces a "vaccine" to stimulate the immune system to fight the infection, but the results vary widely.
More commonly, warts are removed. Depending on the location and severity of the outbreak, veterinarians may recommend an over-the-counter topical treatment recommended for humans to remove a few isolated warts that are not in the eyes, mouth, nose or genital areas. The application process would be the same as for humans, with the exception that the affected area should be covered to keep the dog from licking or chewing the medication.
Warts can also be removed surgically. This can occur by either burning them off or excising the affected tissue. Burning warts is accomplished with an electrocautery machine. This machine passes electricity through the point of a stylus that can be applied to the growth to destroy the cells. This method works extremely well in dogs that have a few, isolated growths in areas that cannot be or have been unsuccessfully treated with topical solutions. Surgical removal of affected tissues is recommended for dogs with larger areas of growths. The affected tissue is removed completely when surgery occurs. Both of these treatments are very successful, though the chance of recurrence is high.
Dogs that have severe outbreaks can be treated with the use of interferon, the same drug used in humans to combat viral infections. This treatment is reserved for dogs that, due to the severity of their condition, cannot be treated by surgery. The treatment is extremely expensive and the results are varied.