Does Your Horse Have Warts?

Affecting the stratified squamous and/or mucosal epithelium, the lesions the virus causes may take weeks to appear.

Perhaps you’ve owned or known a horse with warts. If so, you were likely seeing a visible manifestation of equine papilloma virus. This infectious herpes virus can cause bumps known as equine warts on the exterior of a horse’s muzzle and inside his mouth, and sometimes on his ears, legs,
and genitals.

Warts on a horse's nose
Photo by Nichole Chirico

This virus is species specific, appearing only in horses. It’s not contagious to humans but is contagious to other horses. It’s usually transmitted from horse to horse by direct contact, though it can survive outside of a host for long periods of time. It can be spread by fomites (inanimate objects that, once contaminated with pathogenic bacteria or viruses, can transfer disease to another host).

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It occurs most commonly in horses from 6 months to 5 years of age and remains in the horse’s system providing lifelong immunity and antibody protection. There’s no evidence that either sex or any breed is more susceptible to infection from this virus. 

There’s no vaccine available for equine papilloma virus, but warts are usually harmless and resolve themselves within a matter of a few months. 

Stop the Spread

Keep affected horses in quarantine away from other horses to avoid any direct contact.

Always use separate water buckets, feed bins, and brushes to avoid spreading any kind of viruses. 

tack and gear
If your horse has warts, keep all of his tack and equipment separate from other horses and sanitize items after every ride. 

Left photo by Elenathewise/; middle photo by Wirestock/; right photo by Maria/

Tips for Treating Warts

In most cases, equine warts require no treatment. However, they may interfere with your horse’s eating, as they tend to form on the muzzle and in the mouth. It’s also possible for the warts or skin around them to crack and bleed, and even become infected. Monitor the warts, keep them and the surrounding skin clean, and if needed, apply topical antiseptics or moisturizing lotions. If the warts are infected or causing discomfort, a veterinarian may remove them.

Read More: Common Equine Skin Problems

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