Old dog warts are something that most senior dog parents have seen before but know little about.
So, today we’re going to take a look at old dog warts, what they are, why old dogs get them, and what, if anything, you should do about them.
What Are Old Dog Warts?
Warts are caused by the papillomavirus, an opportunistic virus that expresses itself in dogs with compromised immune systems or immune system imbalances.
All dogs are exposed to the papillomavirus throughout their lifetime, but the virus is only able to really “latch on” when a dog’s immune system is unable to fight it.
Many vets use the growth of papillomas to gauge the health of a dog’s immune system. For example, a dog with no warts is likely to have a robust immune system response capable of fighting off the virus. A dog with a few warts may have an immune system imbalance and the health of their immune response can be gauged by how quickly warts clear up. A dog with many warts that stick around is a dog with a compromised immune response.
Younger dogs can develop warts from the papilloma virus. This usually happens in dogs with immune deficiency or an immune imbalance.
What Do Old Dog Warts Look Like?
Warts that are caused by the papillomavirus can vary in appearance, but most often look like small flesh-colored cauliflower heads. Occasionally, these warts can also be pink, black, or gray in color and have less of a cauliflower appearance.
Why Do Old Dogs Get Warts?
As dogs get older, their immune system can be less robust than it used to be as a younger dog. This is what allows for warts associated with the papillomavirus to grow.
Should You Cut Off Old Dog Warts?
Warts associated with the papilloma virus are a symptom of the virus, so cutting them off will not eliminate the virus from your dog’s system. This means that the removed wart will likely grow back and even if it doesn’t, new warts will likely pop up over time.
Since they are likely to come back up, vets don’t usually remove warts unless they pose a problem.
If for example, a dog has a cluster of warts by their mouth that make eating difficult, the vet may remove them.
Other dogs have one or two warts that tend to get snagged when scratching or during grooming. These warts may bleed and scab over and continue to do so until removed.
If warts are not bothersome, however, your vet will likely leave them alone.
Will Old Dog Warts Get Bigger?
Old dog warts don’t tend to get bigger, but new ones can pop up creating a cluster. If scraped or scratched, however, warts can look bigger in appearance.
If your dog has a wart that appears to be getting much larger as a single growth, drop into your vet ASAP because you may not be looking at a wart.
Other Types of Growths
Only a vet can diagnose your dog’s growths through aspirating the cells or doing a skin scraping. This is a simple and affordable procedure, Jet had it done a few times for his histiocytoma, lipomas, warts, and for his hemangiosarcoma.
There are some growths that are commonly confused by dog owners as warts, some of these include:
Sebaceous cysts – These are usually small round smooth pimple like growths that are black, pink, white, or flesh colored. These are harmless cysts that develop when small sacs develop under the skin around hair follicles. These sacs sit around the sebaceous gland which lubricates the hair follicle and fill with sebum which is secreted from the gland. Eventually, this creates a lump which either remains closed or may erupt. Vets usually leave these growths alone if they are not bothersome. If the growth becomes bothersome, it can be drained by your vet, but it will recur unless the sac of the cyst is excised in a small surgical procedure.
Histiocytomas – These are benign but often quickly growing tumors that grow from immune cells. These are common growths in dogs and are found most frequently in dogs under 2 years old. These growths are rounded or button shaped and seemingly grow overnight, but they do not grow in clusters like warts. These are most often red in color and occasionally they can ulcerate. Compared to sebaceous cysts, histiocytomas look “angrier”. These growths can be removed and should be removed if they become particularly bothersome, but left alone, they may also vanish on their own within a few months. Most vets will request that you wait for three months before scheduling removal to see if the growth regresses by itself.
Mast cell tumors – These are growths to worry about. They can be confused with many other types of growths because they can vary so much in appearance. Mast cell tumors develop from groups of immune cells (mast cells) that cluster together. These growths grow quite quickly and may be itchy for your dog, but there is no characteristic appearance for this type of tumor. Mast cell tumors are aggressive and difficult to treat, but the grade of the tumor determines just how difficult. Treatment for this type of growth varies but may include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Prognosis depends on the grade of the tumor.
If your dog has any type of growth, it’s always worth heading to your vet to get it checked out. There is really no way to tell the difference between many of these growths without looking at the cells that comprise them under the microscope.
I know, you’re going to worry, I’ve been there…more than once…four times with Jet, in fact. But, it’s always better to be safe rather than sorry. The sooner you catch any one of these lumps, the sooner they can be treated if necessary, so stop reading my blog and call your vet!