Canine Papilloma Virus: Ralf’s Itchy Legs and Skin Lesions

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

Canine Papilloma Virus: Ralf's Itchy Legs and Skin Lesions

Ralf’s story

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.

Veterinary check-up

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.

Diagnosing Ralf

Other possibilities included:

  • mange
  • atopy
  • food allergy
  • pyoderma
  • 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.

Ralf’s progress

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.

Source story:
Case Study: Papilloma Virus in Puppy

Related articles:
Why Does My Dog Itch: Itching For A Diagnosis
Why Is My Dog So Itchy: Top 5 Causes Of Itching In Dogs

Further reading:
Papilloma of the Skin

Categories: ConditionsDog health advocacyItchingReal-life StoriesSkin issuesSymptoms

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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