Recently, three separate clients reached out with a common concern: their dogs had developed papillomas, benign skin growths known as warts. To shed light on this, I’ll going to delve into a comparative outline of papillomas, looking at this issue through two different lenses: Western medicine and Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM).
Canine Papillomas – An Overview
Papillomas, commonly referred to as warts, are benign skin growths seen in dogs. These growths, usually resulting from the canine papillomavirus, often appear on the skin or in the mouth. Picture them as uninvited guests that show up on your dog’s body, bearing a rough, cauliflower-like texture.
Understanding the Intruder
The papillomavirus, like a persistent party crasher, thrives in the company of others. This virus primarily spreads through direct contact with an infected dog or through shared objects like toys or water bowls. This is similar to how an unexpected guest might bring a plus-one along without asking.
Manifestations of Papillomas
Papillomas typically appear as small, round bumps on the skin or oral cavity of the dog. You might see a single papilloma or a cluster of them. These bumps can resemble a small town of mushroom-shaped houses, randomly sprouting up.
Biopsy: Delving into the Core Evidence
Like a skilled detective collecting crucial evidence, veterinarians often opt for a biopsy procedure. This involves extracting a small tissue sample from the papilloma. The sample can be obtained through an incisional biopsy, removing a piece of the growth, or an excisional biopsy, removing the entire growth itself.
The collected tissue sample is sent to a veterinary pathologist. Under the microscope, the pathologist scrutinizes the cellular structure to decipher whether the papilloma is benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
Fine Needle Aspirate: A Preliminary Clue
In certain cases, veterinarians may employ a less invasive technique known as a fine needle aspirate, akin to obtaining a preliminary clue. Using a small needle, cells are extracted from the growth and examined under a microscope. This initial analysis can provide valuable insights into the likelihood of a growth being benign or malignant. However, it may not yield as definitive results as a biopsy.
Tailored Investigations: Case-Specific Approaches
It’s important to note that the diagnostic tests performed depend on various factors, including the dog’s overall health, the location and appearance of the growth, and the veterinarian’s clinical judgment. Each case requires a customized investigative strategy due to the unique circumstances of each case.
How It Affects Your Dog
Although papillomas generally don’t cause much discomfort, they can become an issue if they grow in areas where they can interfere with your dog’s normal functions, like eating or walking.
In many cases, papillomas will eventually disappear on their own as the dog’s immune system mounts a response. However, in some cases, if the papillomas are causing discomfort or are not resolving at home or on their own, they may need to be removed by a veterinarian. This is akin to finally deciding to ask the unwanted guests to leave so peace can be restored.
Always consult with your vet if you notice any unusual growths on your dog. They can determine if it’s indeed a papilloma, and guide you on the best course of action.
From a TCVM Perspective
Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) approaches health issues, including papillomas, with a holistic perspective, considering the body as a complete entity. It sees the body as a network of energies and elements that need to stay in balance for optimum health.
From a TCVM standpoint, papillomas could be seen as a manifestation of an imbalance within the body, possibly connected to a deficiency in the immune system, leading to the proliferation of the papillomavirus. You could imagine these papillomas as weeds sprouting in a garden due to the gardener’s negligence, a sign that the body’s protective forces (the gardener, in this analogy) are failing in some aspect.
According to TCVM principles, there could be several root causes for the development of papillomas, such as:
- Qi Deficiency: This condition signifies that the body’s vital energy is depleted, making it difficult for the body to effectively resist the papillomavirus.
- Damp Heat: This syndrome represents an excess of heat and dampness within the body, conditions that are conducive to the growth of warts.
- Blood Stasis: This can lead to localized growths like papillomas due to the improper flow of blood and Qi.
For example, when a dog has Qi deficiency, it might receive a tonifying diet and herbs to bolster its vital energies.
When To Call Your Vet
There are two things we do not want to see:
- Fast-growing bumps, lumps, warts, or papillomas
- Angry looking in nature
When in doubt, have it checked out. Sometimes the growth is in a location that may only have a small window for surgery. For example, if it grows on the elbow, where there is minimal skin, any surgery to remove it typically can only be done when the bump is small.
If the case is minor they may send you home with some medication.
Food Heals, But Always Work With Your Vet
Nothing beats a hands-on examination.
Oftentimes I get calls asking if I can take care of something like a papilloma through food.
I believe in the healing power of food. A thoughtfully crafted diet tailored to your dog’s unique needs, can provide the building blocks for health, support the immune system, and even help manage certain medical conditions. However, as potent as food therapy can be, it should never be considered a replacement for professional veterinary care.
Always work closely with your veterinarian when managing health issues and making dietary changes. Their expertise provides a crucial component in understanding the full scope of your dog’s health. Remember, the synergy of a balanced diet and professional veterinary guidance can often produce the most potent healing potion for your beloved dog.
As always, thank you for stopping by. I wish you and your dogs Good Health!
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CHEVILLE NF, OLSON C. CYTOLOGY OF THE CANINE ORAL PAPILLOMA. Am J Pathol. 1964 Nov;45(5):849-72. PMID: 14223585; PMCID: PMC1907151.
Gould AP, Coyner KS, Trimmer AM, Tater K, Rishniw M. Canine pedal papilloma identification and management: a retrospective series of 44 cases. Vet Dermatol. 2021 Oct;32(5):509-e141. doi: 10.1111/vde.12999. Epub 2021 Jul 1. PMID: 34212427.
Hannah Zulueta obtained her Certificate in Canine Nutrition from CASI Institute. She is also studying for her Doctorate in Acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Herbalism from the esteemed Pacific College of Health and Medicine.
She resides in San Diego with her three dogs, Maggie, Orbit, and Mr. Higgins.