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October 14, 2011

Autumn time and the living is easy. Fleas are jumpin’ and the cotton is high. Heh.


Flea season is no joke to dog owners. And when your furry friend is subject to flea-bite dermatitis, it’s a double whammy. Scratching. Biting at skin. Hotspots. It makes a dog’s life miserable. And by extension, you’re miserable too.

With the very wet spring New England experienced and the very hot temperatures we have endured on and off, mosquitoes have become a big problem for us two-leggers. Similarly, fleas are out in abundance, which can cause problems for our four-legged friends.

How do you protect your dogs?
1. First, discard all over-the-counter flea products like Frontline. Likewise flea and tick collars. They don’t stop fleas from biting and they may be harmful to your furry friends. Think about it. If the neurotoxin used in these products is so powerful that humans cannot touch it for 24 hours, what will it do to your dog or cat who absorbs it through their pores?

Will Falconer, DVM and homeopathic veterinarian examines the mounting evidence against flea-control products:
Unfortunately, most of the flea control products are directed at the bothersome adults, and most of these are toxic chemicals that are poisonous to the pet and its person. The end result of bombs, sprays, dips, “spot-ons,” and the like, is resistant fleas and sick people and pets. Why? It’s the same story that happens with any antibiotic, pesticide, or herbicide: a certain percentage of every population of “pest” is resistant to any given chemical. When the chemical is used, these resistant microbes, parasites, or weeds breed and begin a new strain that simply ignores the chemical. New chemicals are sought that are increasingly less safe to the humans and animals they contact, and resistance develops at each new turn.

In case you’ve had only good experiences putting these topical pesticides on your animal, your neighbors have not, and the Environmental Protection Agency is investigating:
This from the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association’s newsletter:
In response to more than 44,000 potential adverse reactions to spot-on flea and tick products reported in 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency is intensifying its evaluation of these products. No recalls have been issued at this time. The AVMA will continue to maintain contact with the EPA and monitor the situation, and updates will be posted as they come to our attention. To see the EPA’s statement, including a chart of products, go For information about reporting adverse events, go to

Your ongoing flea program consists of protecting against further infestations. Vacuum and clean your pet’s bedding frequently, using flea products as needed. You might also need to spray your yard to keep pests at bay.

Certain viruses are able to cause the growth of small round skin tumors commonly referred to as warts. Everyone who has every seen a drawing of a fairy tale witch knows what warts look like so when the family dog develops small round skin growths, many people assume these, too, are harmless warts. It is important to realize that viral warts are a specific condition and that a growth on the dog’s skin may or may not represent a viral wart.

Human warts are round, somewhat flat, and relatively smooth. Viral warts in dogs tend to possess frond-like structures creating more of a sea anemone or cauliflower-like appearance, though they can be smooth as well. The classical canine viral wart patient is a young dog with warts in or around the mouth or eyes.

In dogs, we do not call these growths “warts;” we use the more formal term “viral papilloma.” As in people, viral papillomas are caused by a papillomavirus though dogs and people have very different papillomaviruses and cannot transmit their viruses across species lines.

Viral papillomas are round but often have a rough, almost jagged surface reminiscent of a sea anemone or a cauliflower. They occur usually on the lips and muzzle of a young dog (usually less than 2 years of age). Less commonly, papillomas can occur on the eyelids and even the surface of the eye or between the toes. Usually they occur in groups rather than as solitary growths.

The infection is transmitted via direct contact with the papillomas on an infected dog or with the virus in the pet’s environment. The incubation period is 1-2 months. This virus can only be spread among dogs. It is not contagious to other pets or to humans. To become infected, the dog generally needs an immature immune system, thus this infection is primarily one of young dogs and puppies. Dogs taking cyclosporine orally to treat immune-mediated disease may also have an outbreak of papilloma lesions. Beyond this, transmission details are sketchy. It is not known whether the infected dog must actually show visible lesions to be contagious, nor how long after regression of lesions contagion is still of concern.

Not really. They should go away on their own as the dog’s immune system matures and generates a response against the papillomavirus. There have been two cases published where viral papillomas progressed to malignancy but this is extremely rare and by no means the usual course of the infection. Typically, it takes 1-5 months for papillomas to regress with oral growths tending to regress sooner than those around the eyes. Occasionally some papillomas will stay permanently. It appears that lesions on the eyelid, heat and feet may be caused by a different papilloma virus than those in the mouth.
Sometimes oral papillomas can become infected with bacteria of the mouth. Antibiotics will be needed in such cases to control the pain, swelling, and bad breath.

In most cases, treatment is unnecessary; one simply allows the papillomas to go away on their own. Occasionally an unfortunate dog will have a huge number of tumors, so many that consuming food becomes a problem. Tumors can be surgically removed or frozen off cryogenically. Sometimes crushing several growths seems to stimulate the host’s immune system to assist in the tumor regression process. In humans, anti-viral doses of interferon have been used to treat severe cases of warts and this treatment is also available for severely infected dogs though it is costly and yields inconsistent results.

More recently, a topical medication called imiquimod has been used in both canine and human infections to help boost immune-mediated inflammation and thus facilitate destruction of the virus by the body. Imiquimod is being prescribed increasingly for dogs with viral papillomas.

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