What is a Papilloma?
A papilloma is the scientific term for a wart, or a benign tumour, of the skin. It is caused by a virus and it is common for dogs to have multiple of these at any one time. They are rarely seen in cats. They often spontaneously resolve and disappear as your dog develops immunity to the virus. Sometimes they are removed if they become particularly bothersome, sore or infected.
How did your pet develop a papilloma or wart?
Papillomaviruses are hardy organisms and can survive for long periods in the environment. They are transmitted through direct contact with an infected pet or the pet’s environment (toys, food and water bowls, bedding etc). The virus is able to enter the body through cuts, insect bites and sores or moist skin.
What do they look like?
In dogs, they more commonly appear as small inflamed polyps or warts. These can sometimes ulcerate and bleed causing your dog to want to lick them if they can reach. However, they may be flatter and more scaly in appearance. Some can even be inward-growing hard masses which may cause pain, particularly if they are on the feet.
In cats, papillomas are usually flat, plaque-like, and sometimes scaly. There may be one or more lesions, usually on the head, neck, or limbs.
How are they diagnosed?
Most have a typical appearance and your vet at Sydney Animal Hospitals may advise you to monitor it and see how it changes over time or if it starts to bother your pet. They may have a similar appearance to other skin tumours so your vet may also recommend a procedure called an FNA. This stands for Fine Needle Aspirate which involves inserting a small needle into the tumour and aspirating some cells to expel onto a slide. This is then sent off to a laboratory to be assessed under the microscope. Sometimes there aren’t enough cells aspirated or they are unclear, in this circumstance a surgical biopsy is recommended. As most papillomas are small it will often involve removal of the entire tumour. This procedure requires an anaesthetic. The tissue is then preserved and sent off to a laboratory for a pathologist to examine under the microscope in more detail (histopathology).
How are they treated?
In dogs, some regress completely and disappear within 1-2 months. They do not spread to other areas of the body and surgery is curative. Rarely do they regrow. Additional papillomas may develop if the viral infection persists. Especially if your pet has an impaired immune system due to concurrent conditions (e.g. Cushing’s).
In cats, papillomaviruses are associated with certain cancers (e.g. squamous cell carcinoma) and surgery is usually advised.
It is important to stop your pet from rubbing, scratching or licking the papilloma as this will prevent it from becoming damaged, which can lead to bacterial infection of the skin and a more painful wart.
If your pet has had surgical removal the incision site must be protected and kept clean and dry until the incision is fully healed. If you have any concerns please contact your vet at Sydney Animal Hospitals for advice.
As it is a virus should I be concerned about my family?
Papillomaviruses are species-specific and therefore not transmissible to humans. They can be passed within species, so please ensure no close contact with other dogs/cats until the papilloma is gone.
If you have any questions or concerns about whether or not this form of treatment would benefit your furry family member, please talk to one of our knowledgeable vets at Sydney Animal Hospitals.
We are here for you every step of the way.
If you have any questions, please contact your local Sydney Animal Hospital below;
Newtown (02)9519 4111
69-73 Erskineville Road Erskineville
Inner West (02)9516 1466
1a Northumberland Ave Stanmore
Norwest (02)8883 0411
Unit 8, 1-3 Celebration Drive Bella Vista
Kellyville (02)8883 0533
106 Windsor Rd Kellyville
Newport (02)9997 4609
1 Palm Rd Newport
Avalon (02)9918 0833
710 Barrenjoey Rd Avalon Beach
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