Papillomas are benign, wart-like grows caused by a virus. They are prevalent in puppies or dogs with declined immune function.
Often, papillomas have a unique cauliflower appearance. However, never assume what a growth is strictly by its look—papillomas can be smooth bumps too.
In puppies, papillomas typically develop in and around the mouth or eyes. While oral papilloma is the most common canine viral papilloma, some infections affect other body parts and look like something else altogether. The types of papilloma infection include:
- oral papilloma
- cutaneous inverted papilloma, which might look like single nodules or even like a lumpy rash
- papilloma pigmented plaques which are dark, scaly, and often appear on the stomach
- digital papillomas that are painful and grow on between the toes and footpad
The two last ones can become cancerous.
Further information: Viral Papillomas of Dogs
Ralf was a 6-month-old Miniature Pinscher. Ralf came to a veterinarian because he was fussing with his legs and tail for a couple of weeks. It was apparent that something was making Ralf itchy. Ralf was fine otherwise, other than scratching and biting at his skin.
Of course, while at the clinic, Ralf did not scratch at all. That is not unusual; symptoms often go away with the excitement and stress of the veterinary visit.
The veterinarian examined Ralf, and he seemed perfectly healthy other than darkened spots on the skin along his back and belly. There were also visible lesions and pustules along the base of Ralf’s tail and back legs.
The lesions didn’t have the typical unhappy look, weren’t raised or red. They checked for fleas because you’d assume those should be a prime suspect, particularly when the tail area is involved. However, they found no evidence of either fleas or flea dirt. On the other hand, if a dog is allergic to flea bites, a single bite is all it takes to cause a dramatic reaction.
Other possibilities included:
- food allergy
- fungal infection
- autoimmune disease
That is a pretty long list that needed narrowing down.
The veterinarian ran multiple tests, including skin scrape, skin biopsy, and cultures. The itching was making Ralf miserable, and he needed an effective treatment. However, there are vastly different treatments for the above possibilities. Without knowing what is causing Ralf’s itchiness, a wrong treatment could be useless or make things worse.
Deciding on the treatment
The lab results ruled out autoimmune disease. Allergies couldn’t be ruled out because as they itch, they can lead the secondary lesions and infections.
Because allergies are the most common cause of itching in dogs, it was the place to start.
The veterinarian put Ralf on a prescription diet, flea control, and treatment for sarcoptic mange because even though they didn’t show up, they rarely do.
The treatment regiment did make Ralf feel a lot better. Most of his symptoms went away except the darkened freckles that remained. At this point, it seemed obvious that they were caused by viral papilloma.
However, because Ralf’s treatment regimen made his skin feel happy, it was possible that the papilloma was present but not behind Ralf’s symptoms.
Sometimes you can find all sorts of possibilities and have to make your way through them to see which one is the real culprit.
Case Study: Papilloma Virus in Puppy
Papilloma of the Skin